Flags fly at the offices of Irvine Unified School District in Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
A controversial policy that would limit flags flown on school campuses has come to the Irvine Unified School District in Southern California, prompting backlash from some LGBT community members who say it would be discriminatory.
The policy would allow only U.S. and state flags to be flown.
It was not introduced by trustees, but submitted for consideration by a community member, Trustee Paul Bokota said during a Nov. 7 school board meeting.
While the policy was only up for discussion and not a vote, about 30 students, parents, teachers, community members, and activists shared their thoughts on the proposal during public comment.
Those who opposed the policy claimed that the community member who submitted it did so specifically to ban LGBT pride flags from classrooms.
“It’s clear what this [policy] is about,” one commenter said. “It’s about the Pride flag.”
Those in opposition also argued that Pride flags helped LGBT students feel safe on campus.
Front of the Irvine Unified School District administration building in Irvine, Calif., on June 21, 2023. (Julianne Foster/The Epoch Times)
Several commenters referred to statistics by the LGBT advocacy organization Trevor Project which said that making such students feel safe is important because they are at four times higher risk of suicide than their straight peers.
One teacher said he’d seen the impact that Pride flags had in creating a “safe” environment for LGBT students.
“I’ve seen firsthand the impact that students feeling safe has on their mental health and [academic] success,” he said. “The proposed flag rule feels like a slippery slope leading down the path of division.”
A student told the audience that to her, the Pride flag “doesn’t say, ‘you need to be gay,’ it says, ‘I see you.’”
Meanwhile, those who supported the policy say it’s fair because displaying certain flags and not others excludes some groups.
Many in support of the policy called the Pride flag “divisive,” but argued that the U.S. and California flags united people because both apply to all students and district community members.
Additionally, one public commenter said that in order to be fair, the district would have to “display LGBT and straight Pride flags together under certain anti-discrimination laws.”
An LGBT flag at an Orange Unified School District meeting in Orange, Calif., on Aug. 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
“We’re not excluding anyone by omitting all flags, but we are excluding [some] students by displaying them,” they said.
After public comment, the board briefly discussed the policy—with four out of five trustees indicating they would not approve it when it came time to vote. Trustee Jeff Kim did not indicate his position during the meeting.
Trustee Cyril Yu said that when he visited school campuses, he noticed that most classrooms don’t have Pride or other flags on display, but all classrooms have U.S. flags.
Mr. Yu, along with Mr. Bokota, said they supported teachers who chose to display such flags in their classrooms.
The policy will likely return to the board for a vote in the coming weeks.
Similar policies were passed this year in the Chino Valley and Temecula Valley unified school districts—both of which have majority-conservative boards.