Students and parents at an Alabama high school launched a petition to get an LGBT flag removed from a classroom, saying it "creates a hostile and provocative learning environment" — but supporters of the flag fired back with a petition of their own, NBC News reported.
The change.org petition — addressed to Auburn High School Principal Shannon Pignato — adds that the rainbow pride flag makes it "uncomfortable" for students who are not "openly supporting the LGBTQ+ community in a public school where students come from diverse political and religious backgrounds."
The flag was raised in the classroom to highlight "Educate" — a club that promotes diversity, NBC News said.
But the petition signers "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."
The petition also argues that if a teacher were to hang "a Confederate, Christian, or Heterosexual Flag in their classroom," then "uproar and chaos" would occur.
Not long after the petition went up, a counterpetition supporting the LGBT pride flag was posted on change.org.
It states, in part, that "the pride flag and the AHS Educate club has served to provide a healthy environment for our LGBT+ peers to feel comfortable being who they truly are. The flag represents this safe space, and frankly, the sentiment for removing the pride flag is an affront to the work that has been done nationally to fight for recognition of the community."
Brandon Sinniger, the Auburn High School student who started the counterpetition, told WRBL-TV on Tuesday morning that the LGBT pride flag is still up.
“Obviously, the administration and my community have sent a pretty clear message that the flag is going to stay exactly where it is,” Sinniger told the station. “I hope it stays exactly where it is. I have talked personally with the signer of the original petition, but basically, this is where we stand right now, and unless something drastic happens, which I doubt, but the flag is going to stay up, and I’m glad that it is.”
As of Friday afternoon, the petition against the flag has pulled in 1,166 signers while the counterpetition has attracted 6,871 signers.
One parent who signed the counterpetition said having a safe space for LGBT youth is crucial.
“Just yesterday, my daughter, who is at Auburn High School, was telling me how she had seen the flag and how excited she was,” Daisy Griffin told WRBL in a separate story. “She joined the Educate Club and other clubs. I was very happy, very pleased that Auburn High School was creating these safe spaces and allowing for representation.”
Karen DeLano, Auburn City Schools superintendent, told the station the issue is being handled internally.
How far is too far?
Obviously, the existence of a school club that promotes diversity is a non-issue. But a visual symbol promoting a particular sociopolitical or cultural point of view in a public school setting — in this case, hanging right in front of students in a classroom — seems to be overstepping lines.
(H/T: The Right Scoop)