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Anne Arundel Board rejects controversial 'flag ban,' allowing Pride and Black Lives Matter flags in schools

Anne Arundel Board rejects controversial 'flag ban,' allowing Pride and Black Lives Matter flags in
Anne Arundel Board rejects controversial 'flag ban,' allowing Pride and Black Lives Matter flags in 02:21

BALTIMORE -- Anne Arundel County School Board members rejected the controversial proposed flag ban on school property.

The Board voted to permit Pride, Black Lives Matter and similar flags at schools and in classrooms.

The "flag ban" was met with protesters from both sides of the argument.

Parents and teachers lined Riva Road in front of Anne Arundel County Board of Education Building Wednesday morning, some holding rainbow-colored Pride flags, and others with Red, White and Blue flags.

"We've never been told how to decorate our classrooms before or how to make our students feel included before or not included, and now it appears that we are being told," said Nicole Disney-Bates, President of Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, who organized the protest against the policy.

The policy proposed by Board Member Corine Frank would have allowed the United States Flag to fly along with the flags representing the state and county at the schools. 

However, any other flag displayed would need to be accepted for a "bona-fide educational purpose" which would be determined by the school's principals.

But that policy was turned down with four board members against, three for and one who abstained.

Critics of the police said banning certain flags, including Pride and Black Lives Matter Flags, would undermine inclusivity in schools.

"We feel that classrooms should be free spaces for people to express themselves and we would like to keep that going in Anne Arundel County," Disney-Bates said.

"Flags are a symbol of community and belonging," fifth-grade teacher Russel Leonie said in May, after the first reading of the policy. "This policy would greatly limit the educator's ability to visually demonstrate that all of our students are welcome in our schools."    

Carry Gillespie led a group of parents in support of the policy.

"Unfortunately, other flags in the classroom divide them and are distractions to their education," Gillespie said.

At the board meeting, people on both sides of the aisle had the chance to present their views to the board during public comment. 

"A teacher's rainbow flag in their classroom sends a message to students that they are accepted just as they are," Carrie Brooks said.

"Flags do not protect children, an environment where they can learn and thrive does," Kim Prada said.

Board member Frank argued her policy is intended to keep classrooms neutral.

"Public schools cannot endorse one value system that runs contrary to the others, because to do so makes other students feel marginalized and excluded," Frank said.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell offered his recommendation not to approve this policy.

"Classrooms, as a former teacher, are places where relationships that cultivate a sense of belonging for students are created," Bedell said.

It was a long day of a lot of disagreeing.

However, the board members agreed these conversations are important to have.

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