Much like the misnomered “Don’t Say Gay” bill that went on to become law in the state of Florida under its actual title, “Parental Rights in Education,” un- and under-informed activists lashed out after a Wisconsin school district announced they would be upholding their policy that, in part, combats woke ideologies in classrooms.
On Tuesday, the Kettle Moraine School District in Waukesha County, Wisconsin held a school board meeting with double the typical allotted time for public comment. After an hour where many protested their decision, the school board made clear they weren’t going to budge on their policy that most notably prohibits the use of preferred pronouns in email signatures and the display of pride flags in classrooms.
“The prohibition is based on Kettle Moraine School District’s decade-old policy that bans ‘partisan politics, sectarian religious views, or selfish propaganda,'” CNN reported. Upholding the ban came after it was announced in July by the district superintendent Stephen Plum who had stated at the time, “We live in a world where politics are highlighted, and it puts people in uncomfortable positions.”
Among those outraged by the decision were students Brit Farrar and Bethany Provan who were credited with starting a petition on Change.org to attempt to sway the school district to remove the policy. They argued “A pride flag is not a political thing, loving someone is not political. Think of all the students/kids who are scared to go home because they don’t have the support of their families, but when they walk into…school and their teacher has a pride flag hanging on the wall, they finally feel safe and supported.”
“Pro-nouns,” they went on, “are a part of English class. Maybe instead of banning teachers by simply saying their pro-nouns in email sign offs, we actually teach students what they are. Because like it or not everyone has a pro-noun. she/her he/him are pro-nouns. You use them in everyday life. So is it a crime for our teachers to say what they would like to be referred by?”
Comments on the petition that had received nearly 14,000 signatures at the time of this posting argued much the same with statements like, “Pride flags are not political and recognizing pronoun usages is quite simply a sign of respect,” and, “Representation saves lives and queer youth deserve to know they’re safe, accepted and respected.”
However, as was the case with Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law, activists neglected to point out that the policy was not targeted exclusively at pride flags and Black Lives Matter flags which were lumped in through intersectionality, but that the ban included any political displays in classrooms including those in support of law enforcement and the more obviously partisan Make America Great Again banner.
Furthermore, the ban only applies to teachers and staff, not to students and board members and does not prohibit students from exercising their free speech when appropriate. As for other displays that might be perceived as violating the policy like a cross necklace, USA Today reported that the rule made exceptions for discreet expressions by faculty.
“I would say that is a personal item, and I wouldn’t worry about that as opposed to something like a T-shirt that has large letters on it,” Plum said.
While many activists may have spoken up, according to board member Kelly Brown, 80 percent of comments from locals were in favor of the policy and she herself said, “I’m good with the decision.”
Kettle Moraine’s decision to put education ahead of politics clearly demonstrates why six of the 10 schools that they operate were “designated as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education,” according to their website.
This didn’t stop parents like Amy Toson from objecting as she told WISN, “I don’t want my kids to grow up in a space and place where they don’t see and respect all different types of people. That’s against any value that I have and anything that our community is about.”
Again, the policy says nothing about banning respect or acknowledgment of the existence of any marginalized groups, it merely prohibits the display of political statements in the classroom.
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