MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — Protesters gathered after the Monongalia County Board of Education banned political flags from classrooms, which resulted in the removal of a pride flag.
The protest was held just before the regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday to show support for the LGBTQ+ students and faculty of the county schools and demand the board reverse their Pride flag ban.
During the meeting, the board discussed a policy that addresses participation in political activities, stating that they have spoken to their legal counsel regarding the matter. No action was taken to overturn the ban on the displaying of the progressive Pride Flag, with people speaking both against the ban and in favor of the ban.
“The interpretation that was provided us was, those flags could be, could be viewed as literature. Any flag that is hung up in the classroom, doesn’t have to be a piece of paper or a trifold that is handed out as it would be a political candidate,” said Eddie Campbell, superintendent of Monongalia County Schools. “If you look at some of the definitions they talk about things that can be coercive or disruptive, forces that do not contribute to the learning process. And then specifically, when you go down through the A through E many of the references that are made there use the language, and I want to make sure I get it right for the folks that are here. If you look at B after where it says, ‘or more candidates’ it then uses the words ‘issues or a particular point of view’ and that is mentioned several times in here.”
Many queer community members and allies were encouraged to attend the protest to allow their voices to be heard. Those in attendance at the meeting stated how the ban violated the first amendment and that students see the flag as a symbol of safety.
“You know, our existence of queer people isn’t political. We are simply individuals who want to be accepted and feel that we are safe in a space. Our existence should not be politicized, and I am not sure how we’ve gotten to this point honestly,” said Ash Orr, president of Morgantown Pride. “These kids deserve to be in an environment where they feel safe, included, and heard. You know, they spend most of their days in a classroom, they have every right to feel that they are safe in that space and that they are accepted for who they are, that they have teachers or faculty that they can lean on and speak to. Everyone that is a queer person deserves to have that safe space, especially in an educational setting.”
The next Monongalia County Board of Education meeting will be held on Oct. 11. Students have also planned a walkout at Morgantown High School on Wednesday.