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Wisc. School Board Affirms Ban on Pride Displays & Preferred Pronouns

Teacher in a classroom

The Kettle Moraine School District in Wisconsin says teachers and staff cannot display Pride symbols or flags, and they must remove pronouns from email signatures.

Despite the vocal opposition to a new school policy by a large crowd of community members, a Wisconsin school board approved a measure prohibiting teachers and staff from displaying LGBTQ+ Pride flags or symbols and other items deemed "political." The policy also forbids the use of preferred pronouns.

Employees are prohibited from displaying political or religious messages, such as pride flags, Black Lives Matter signs, or We Back the Badge signs, or specifying their pronouns in emails per the district's code of conduct.

Kettle Moraine High School library was packed with people wanting their voices heard on Tuesday, and Milwaukee's ABC affiliate WISN reports the public comment period had to be extended from 30 to 60 minutes to accommodate many, but not all, of the speakers.

The school superintendent told board members in July he's clarifying the employee code of conduct to remove pride flags from classrooms and pronouns from email signatures.

The move is based on the school district's policy that prohibits "partisan politics, sectarian religious views, or selfish propaganda," CNN reports.

According to superintendent Stephen Plum, expressing identity is political, uncomfortable, and thus prohibited at Kettle Moraine School District.

"The expectation is that teachers and administration will not have political flags or religious messaging in their classroom or on their person. This expectation includes Pride flags," Plum said at a school board meeting last month, WISN reported. He also prohibited displays of Black Lives Matter, Back the Badge, and Make America Great Again.

Although most spoke in opposition, one student, accompanied by her mother, applauded the policy at the meeting.

"The fact is that the majority of students don't want or need this, so catering to the minority only encourages the envelope to be pushed further," the student said, according to WISN.

Kettle Moraine School Board members heard from other students and parents before the vote.

"I know people who cannot come out to their parents," Abigail O'Connor, who said she was a queer student in the district, explained, according to CNN. "They aren't accepted at home, so they look for acceptance at school. But now that acceptance is slowly fading away."

Bethany Provan and Brit Farrar, also students in the district, said they had started a petition calling for the policy to be changed. It had 13,000 signatures on Friday.

"When [LGBTQ+ students] walk into school and see that simple rainbow flag hanging on the wall, they finally feel safe and supported," Provan told the board.

Farrar said that banning teachers from including their pronouns in emails was discriminatory. "Instead of banning teachers from putting their pronouns in their email, we should teach kids what pronouns are, why they are important, and why people should actually respect them," Farrar said.

Only one school board member, Jim Romanowski, who previously expressed that he disagreed with the ban on these topics or expressions, told The Advocate earlier this month that he stood by his opposition.

"I absolutely believe that our students have the ability to use their critical thinking skills" in matters of identity and politics, he said. He added, "Especially at the high school level."

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