School districts in California are now banning Pride flags

· Updated on October 4, 2023

One expects a ban on Pride flags in a state such as Florida, which passed its notorious “Don’t Say Gay’ bill last year. But in California, too?

This week, two school districts in the Golden State banned displays of Pride flags. School boards in the Southern California city of Temecula and the Bay Area small town of Sunol voted on the action on Tuesday. It comes as a blow to students, and their parents, in both locations.

The Temecula board banned any flags that aren’t the stars and stripes or state flag. The Sunol Glen Unified School District specifically banned displays of LGBTQ+ rainbow flags.

Both decisions have prompted criticism, particularly the Sunol Glen move. Its three-person board voted 2-1 on Tuesday to ban the district’s single elementary school from displaying the flag. The meeting proved fiery, with Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies having to clear the entire audience from the room when exchanges became heated.

Afterward, many parents expressed disappointment with the move. The Mercury News reports that some kept their kids away from school on Wednesday in protest.

“It’s disconcerting, it’s scary, it’s not right. We’re reeling and trying to figure out how to push back against this,” Matthew Sylvester, a parent at the school, told the paper.

“Taking down a pride flag is telling people they’re not wanted”

The decision taken by the Temecula Valley Unified School District board, although less specific, impacts more campuses. It follows a controversial decision the board took last month to notify parents if their kids identify as trans.

Its board meeting on Tuesday night was also tense, with parents arguing for and against the ban. Much of the discussion centered on the rainbow flag, despite the board claiming it wasn’t acting specifically against the LGBTQ+ symbol.

“Taking down a pride flag is telling people they’re not wanted,” said one Navy veteran present, according to abc7. “How un-American is that? You’re telling them, ‘Go into the closet. Be quiet. We don’t want to see you. We don’t want to acknowledge you.'”

In the end, the decision passed 3-2.

They’re not the first California school districts to ban the flag. In May, the Carlsbad Unified School District voted to ban the flag being displayed during Pride Month.

The Gilbert Baker Foundation

The classic rainbow flag, designed by artist Gilbert Baker in the late 1970s, originated in San Francisco. The Gilbert Baker Foundation, set up following his death, is tracking moves to ban the flag in states across the US.

“Our community has a target on its back,” Charley Beal, president of the Gilbert Baker Foundation’s board of directors, told TheBody last month. “When people ban the rainbow flag, when you’ve had that symbol there and then they erase it, they put the target on the backs of young queer people in their community.”

Gillian Branstetter, a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union LGBTQ and HIV Project, told USA Today, bans of flags are an extension of book bans and other measures to make young queer people feel welcome and valued.

“What unites the efforts to further marginalize trans youth, ban books and ban Pride flags is a desire to make the world less safe for queer youth. The message that flags send is that anywhere it is flown you will be safe and respected and loved for who you are.”

Don't forget to share:

Read More in Impact
The Latest on INTO