A school board in Wisconsin has banned staff from exhibiting Pride flags and listing their pronouns on emails.
The Kettle Moraine School Board first discussed the move in late July. On Tuesday, it voted unanimously in favor of the policy.
Board members claim it is not a new stance, but simply a clarification of the existing code of conduct. It says employees have long been forbidden from making political statements. It believes these bans fall under that remit.
The policy says staff cannot display any political or religious messages. This includes Pride flags and Black Lives Matter and We Back The Badge signs. According to Associated Press, this also includes staff stating their pronouns in emails.
Speaking of the clarification, Superintendent Stephen Plum told Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in late July that employees will not be able to use their positions to promote partisan politics, sectarian religious views, selfish propaganda for personal, monetary or nonmonetary gain.
When it comes to emails, staff must follow a standardized signature template: Name, position, title, location, certification, awards and degrees.
Ban does not apply to crucifix necklaces
Plum was asked at the board meeting late July if the ban would apply to people wearing a cross necklace.
“I would say that is a personal item, and I wouldn’t worry about that as opposed to something like a T-shirt that has large letters on it,” he replied.
School Board President Gary Vose agreed with the decision.
“This isn’t a case where we’re trying to discriminate against any group or groups … but rather just to bring clarity to allow staff to know where the line is drawn on these various things. It’s not a popularity contest.”
According to Associated Press, a large number of members of the public wanted to speak at Tuesday’s packed board meeting. Most opposed the policy. In the end, the board had to restrict public comment to an hour only, despite many of those present requesting an extension to speak.
“This decision sucks.”
The Kettle Moraine School District Facebook page has also been flooded with messages complaining about the policy.
One commentator, Trey Korte, said: “As a gay married teacher who taught at KMHS for ten years and was honored with Teacher of the Year, this makes me incredibly angry and sad. It looks like I made the right decision in leaving. You all have a responsibility for making ALL students AND staff feel safe, valued, and welcome. You are failing at this duty.”
Another said, “I graduated from Kettle Moraine in 2012. Sometimes during high school, I hated not being straight so much that I would have rather stopped existing than admit it. I felt so hideous and wrong. My identity wasn’t political. I didn’t have a choice. This decision sucks.”
When news of the policy first emerged in late July, the Trevor Project, a suicide-prevention organization, wrote to the school board to voice its concern.
“Educators play an essential role in creating affirming environments for their LGBTQ students. Having the ability to model their support through displays of the rainbow pride flag and email signatures that include their pronouns signals to young people that they’re a safe person … LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult are 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt.”
It seems these concerns fell upon deaf ears.