School administrators in Burlington, Massachusetts, called the actions of students who resisted a middle school's Pride Month celebrations "completely unacceptable." They also said it was "demeaning" to other students while likening it to violence.
According to Boston.com, on June 2, 2023, students at Marshall Simonds Middle School showed their obvious displeasure with the school's "spirit day" celebration. The event was requested and sponsored by the school's Spectrum Club, a student group for alleged LGBTQ+ students and allies, according to the outlet.
The club decorated the school with "Happy Pride Month" signs and posters that said “Why it’s not OK to say ‘That’s so gay.’” Rainbow streamers, banners, and stickers were handed out, while students and faculty were encouraged to wear rainbow clothing.
Opposing students reportedly tore down banners and signs and chanted “U.S.A. are my pronouns” as they wore red, white, and blue clothes with their faces painted. The outlet also reported that students were seen “being inappropriate” with the rainbow stickers used during the event.
School principal Cari Purchase said in a letter that she was “extremely disheartened” by the students. She said that she respects "freedom of speech" but also claimed beliefs that are "demeaning" to others are not acceptable.
“I fully respect that our diverse community has diverse opinions and beliefs. I also respect individuals’ right to express their opinions through clothing choices and freedom of speech,” she wrote. “When one individual or group of individuals’ beliefs and actions result in the demeaning of another individual or group, it is completely unacceptable.”
“I am truly sorry that a day meant for you to celebrate your identity turned into a day of intolerance," the principal continued. "Schools are supposed to be a safe place for ALL students and faculty. Some community members’ actions created an unsafe environment for many of our students, caregivers, and faculty,” she added.
The Burlington Public Schools Superintendent, Eric Conti, also reportedly wrote a letter to parents to denounce the students. The administrator allegedly claimed that there has been an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ violence in the country and that it “has no place in our schools.”
“Like any spirit day celebration at MSMS, participation is optional. Respectful behavior across the entire student body, however, is non negotiable,” he wrote.
Even a school board member, Mike Espejo, condemned the students for their actions. “I didn’t think this could happen in Burlington,” he said. He then reportedly stated that he was disappointed that the school has yet to hire a diversity, equity, and inclusion director.
Principal Purchase said that the school would look into a program that would teach the children about tolerance, acceptance, and respect.
A local group of non-profits that claim to promote diversity, the Burlington Equity Coalition, demanded that the children be punished and that the district hire a diversity, inclusion, and equity director.
Additionally, a parent of one of the students at the school, who claimed her young child had mental health issues before allegedly coming out of the closet in recent years, also suggested the children be re-educated.
“Could you use this as a teachable moment to show the kids who counter-protested Pride that they can take responsibility for their actions and still become allies?” she asked the school board.
Superintendent Conti was contacted regarding the district's policy on student groups and free speech. This article will be updated with any applicable responses.
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