A high school student displaying an LGBTQ+ Pride flag was assaulted by another student last Thursday, and the accused attacker is now being held in a juvenile detention center.
The incident happened at Southwestern High School in Piasa, a town in central Illinois, the Jacksonville Journal-Courier reports. The school was holding a flag-themed day, and one 17-year-old student brought the rainbow flag.
A fellow student told him to get rid of the flag, and when the first student asked why, yet another schoolmate began punching him in the head and trying to take the flag away. The student with the rainbow flag was injured, but the paper didn’t have information on the extent of his injuries.
The accused attacker has been charged with aggravated battery, Macoupin County State’s Attorney Jordan Garrison told the Journal-Courier. Both the suspect and the victim are minors, so their names have not been released. Garrison didn’t say if the suspect would be charged with a hate crime, although Illinois hate-crimes law does cover attacks motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity.
Social media comments quoted by the paper engaged in some victim-blaming. One said, “You wear a gay Pride flag to school and you don’t expect people to do anything? You go to Southern [sic] High, where we support the Confederate flag and you wonder why you get beat up?” Another said, “Don’t send him in a country ass school wearin’ some gay [expletive] if you don’t want his ass beat.”
There have been several similar incidents recently. A few weeks ago in Valdosta, Ga., a high school student who was draped in a Pride flag was attacked by another student who took the flag away, tossed it in a trash can, and knocked him down. Last spring in Defiance, Ohio, an eighth-grader with a Pride flag around his neck was assaulted by a schoolmate who beat him and choked him with the flag. There was yet another such attack in the spring in Florida.
Also, some schools around the nation — in Missouri, Indiana, Texas, and more — have been banning displays of Pride flags, signs, or stickers by teachers on the grounds that they’re “political,” and teachers who’ve resisted have been punished. Last month students at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, walked out to support teachers who were disciplined.