Concerns arise after Maine school district votes to ban most flags

Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 6:40 PM EDT
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HOLDEN, Maine (WABI) - There are concerns involving the First Amendment right of students after RSU 63′s school board voted seven to one to ban all flags besides the American and Maine state flags in schools across the district.

“What’s really in the best interest of kids? Is it banning these flags or is it celebrating diversity and the inclusion of LGBTQ kids in their schools? That would be my question,” said Gia Drew, executive director of EqualityMaine.

Drew is concerned with the new amendment to the schools flag policy which states that “No other flags will be on display and remain on display unless it is pertinent to the current lesson for illustration.”

This policy change would ban rainbow flags and other national flags unless they are being used during a lesson. This announcement comes as some states have banned flags like Pride and Black Lives Matter flags across the country.

“I don’t think the pride flag has anything to do with hate or violence, I mean LGBTQ people or the community and the flag is sort of a symbol of acceptance and liberation and pride, but not really associated with genocide or with racism or slavery. So I do think there’s a distinction between what a flag they symbolize and what its history may be. So I think there is a place for schools to fly all sorts of flags that are positive that are important, you know, reinforce positive things about a community,” said Drew.

Kat Rivera is a student at Holbrook School says she fully supports the policy change saying: “Personally, I believe that in a school environment the only flag we truly need present is our American flag. Our flag represents everyone in our country as a whole, putting aside all differences.”

However, Michael Kebede of ACLU Maine worries about students in the LGBTQ community losing an outlet of self expression and acceptance in the classroom.

“How is it going to make students feel, how is it going to affect their education? Are certain students now going to feel they don’t belong? And is their education going to suffer as a result? Is there going to be a discriminatory impact on some students, and they’re very well might be, and that’s the biggest harm that I think we might see,” Kebede said.

Superintendent Jared Fulgoni who says it’s their job to implement polices decided on by the board said, in part: “As an educator for more than 32 years, with more than 25 years in school/district leadership, I can say confidently that the most inclusive symbol this community has are the front doors of its schools. When a child walks thru those doors they are first and foremost a student.”