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'Gay Is OK' Artwork Taken Down, Allegedly Likened to Nazi Flag

Gay Is OK artwork
Parent photo via WXIA

The incident happened at a school in Athens, Ga., and some parents say it's part of a pattern of discrimination.

A pro-LGBTQ+ student artwork at a school in Athens, Ga., was taken down from a classroom last week and likened by an administrator to the Nazi flag.

The picture, with rainbow colors and the words "Gay Is OK," was being displayed by a teacher as part of an exhibit of student art at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School, Atlanta TV station WXIA reports. But Friday, administrators asked that the "Gay Is OK" artwork be removed, saying a parent had complained about it. When challenged, one administrator said exhibiting the picture was comparable to hanging a Nazi flag, parents told the station.

Some parents said there has been a pattern of discrimination at the school. "There are ongoing complaints about this current administration has been discriminatory against women, being discriminatory against LGBTQ people, being discriminatory against English language learners or emerging bilinguals, emerging multilingual and Spanish speakers," Jemelleh Coes, a parent and professor at the University of Georgia, which has its main campus in Athens, told WXIA. "So we have seen a pattern of inequity at our school and we have been asking for support at this point for years."

"I have two children who attend OAES," added Gee Campbell, who is transmasculine and nonbinary. "We've been part of this school community for four years. My experiences with the teachers in regards to my transitioning have always been positive and respectful. My daughter is in this classroom, and my immediate thought was What message does this give my daughter about her family?"

One teacher, who did not wish to be named, released this statement to the station: "On behalf of a majority of the staff at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School, we are disheartened that these words and actions have happened in our school building during this time. This does not represent why we chose this profession, and it does not represent the feelings, beliefs, values, and attributes our amazing school family has within these four walls. We are disheartened that there has been no action taken by [the Clarke County School District] or our building administration to rectify the divide that has been caused. We will continue to seek resolution and promote a community of love, acceptance, and tolerance within our building and community."

The school district put out a statement Wednesday saying the incident was being addressed. "It has been alleged that a piece of student artwork was compared to Nazi symbolism," the statement said. "We have investigated the situation and are working to address the issues with all parties involved. To be clear, we condemn this comparison and discrimination in all its forms. The Clarke County School District embraces diversity and inclusion for all students and staff. We stand with our LGBTQIA+ community and are dedicated to proving our commitment to diversity and inclusion. To that end, we will continue having sensitive and appropriate conversations with our school communities."

Athens Pride has also commented on the matter, with a statement saying the group was "appalled." It "is committed to providing resources and support to LGBTQ+ students, parents, and community members -- especially now. ... We are reminded today that our school, city, and people have a lot of work to do to create true safe spaces for our children," the organization continued. "Homophobia, Anti-semitism, and all forms of hate should have no home here in Athens -- especially in our public schools."

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