A petition is being circulated at Change.org by parents and teachers of Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama, to their high school principal about the flying of the Gay flag on school grounds. The petition has collected approximately 1300 signatures. It was first circulated by Andrew Monk.
Using arguments that have been used to abolish the Confederate battle flag from government buildings and college campuses, the petition declares that the presence of the Gay flag “creates a hostile and provocative learning environment for students not comfortable to openly supporting the LGBTQ+ community in a public school where students come from diverse political and religious backgrounds.”
The petition notes that the flag was displayed in the classroom by “Mrs. Yeager.” The Auburn High School website notes that Justin Yeager teaches mathematics at the school, while Donna Yeager teaches social studies.
During the week of August 13-19, the school held a fair where the various clubs and organizations on campus sought student members. The E.D.U.C.A.T.E Club used the Gay flag as part of its display.
WRBL news quoted AHS student Brandon Sinniger, who said that he was “completely breathless” in the wake of the petition. He is involved with lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-sexual and queer students on campus, according to WRBL. Rather than focusing on the Gay flag, what was important for him, he said, was the solidarity shown by one thousand people to the “LGBTQ community.” He is circulating a counter-petition at Change.org.
Some parents want the Gay flag removed because they feel that the school should be neutral.
In an August 18 statement, School Superintendent Dr. Karen Delano declared:
“It has been brought to the attention of Auburn City Schools and Auburn High School that a petition from a group of anonymous students and parents was sent to Dr. Shannon Pignato, the principal of Auburn High School. As of noon, she had not been presented with that petition. She is aware of the situation though and is working with staff and students to address those concerns. Auburn High School is certainly a reflection of the Auburn community, hence societal issues are brought to our campuses. It is our mission to ensure each student embraces and achieves his or her unique intellectual gifts and personal aspirations while advancing the community through a school system distinguished by compassion for others, symbiotic relationships with an engaged community, the creation and sharing of knowledge, inspired learners with global perspectives and the courage to determine our future. In our country today, people are often seen addressing their objections through violence and hate. It is my sincere desire to assist our students in learning to address their opinions and their values in a calm and respectful manner. This differing of opinions related to the E.D.U.C.A.T.E Club at Auburn High School affords our faculty and students an opportunity to learn and model a civil manner in which to resolve our differences.”
The petition to remove the Gay flag reads as follows:
The following signers of this petition ask that the Pride Flag flown in Mrs. Yeager’s classroom be removed as we strongly feel that it creates a hostile and provocative learning environment for students not comfortable to openly supporting the LGBTQ+ community in a public school where students come from diverse political and religious backgrounds. Furthermore, we believe it is unprofessional and distracting for a teacher to be so openly displaying their political views in an unbiased and socially neutral public setting. While the signers of this petition do not feel it is an issue for Mrs. Yeager to support the LGBTQ+ community, we do feel it creates a less than ideal learning environment when a teacher subjects their students to their personal political views in a public school system.
The signers of this petition feel that the flying of the Pride Flag can create a hostile and uncomfortable learning environment for students who come from families that do not support the LGBTQ+ community. Auburn City Schools clearly promotes quality of education and empowerment of the individual to reach his or her full potential. However, subjecting or explicitly exposing students from diverse political backgrounds to political views differing from theirs can make students uncomfortable and distract them from learning the material assigned to them, preventing them from reaching their full potential.
In addition, we would argue that it is unprofessional for a teacher to so openly express and subject students to his or her personal political views. Seeing as how it is Auburn City Schools mission to educate students to their furthest potential, we feel like an expression of such polarizing views is a detriment to the overall learning environment of that class as it alienates students with differing political viewpoints. We also feel it is inappropriate for a public school system to allow teachers to explicitly express clearly biased political viewpoints in a supposedly unbiased and politically neutral school system. We feel that an expression of these views only drives a wedge between students with differing viewpoints and can alienate students with unpopular political and/or religious views from the popular majority in the class, further deteriorating the classroom and learning environment.
In closing, the signers of this petition would like for you to consider the uproar and chaos that would ensue were a teacher to hang for example a Confederate, Christian, or Heterosexual Flag in their classroom. There would likely be protests, emails from teachers, and threatening of lawsuits from parents with differing viewpoints. As such, one does not see teachers hanging these flags in classrooms due to the same argument that it is unprofessional and can create a hostile and unideal learning environment. Taking this and our before mentioned reasons into consideration, the signers of this petition ask that the Pride Flag be removed from Auburn High School in order to preserve a welcoming, beneficial, and unbiased learning environment for students from all political backgrounds attending Auburn High School.