Staff in a Michigan school district were asked to remove pride flags from their classrooms while administration officials address an inquiry from an "external party," according to a statement from school officials.
The external party reached out to Three Rivers Community Schools officials on November 18, "questioning information shared within the school day which also included an inquiry of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) after school club and pride flags within Three Rivers Middle School (TRMS) classrooms."
"TRCS gathered information from the external party and had internal discussions with school officials regarding the matter," the statement said. "In addition, Thrun Law Firm was consulted concerning these two issues."
The Gay Straight Alliance club was allowed to continue its activities "as long as they continue to follow board policy," but the pride flags were removed and will stay out of classrooms until the Board of Education can review the matter at their next meeting, the school officials said.
The statement did not elaborate on the party that made the inquiry or what it entailed.
"TRCS continues to explore best ways to support all students, including the continuation of the GSA Club already established at TRMS," school officials said in the Wednesday statement. "Continued guidance of Thrun Law Firm, review of current board policies, and reaching out to other districts for best practices will also be part of this ongoing process. TRCS appreciates all of the contributions of our staff and will continue to comply with its Board policies. As we move forward, we are committed to providing a safe learning environment for all students and staff of TRCS."
Three Rivers Community Schools alumnus Andrew George told CBS affiliate WWMT that he was concerned about what the decision to remove the flags would say to LGBTQ+ students.
"I fear for the wellbeing of LGBTQ students," George told WWMT. "It is of the utmost importance that we show them that they are accepted. This is how we prevent further depression and suicide rates among LGBTQ teens."
Former teacher Russell Ball told WOOD-TV that teachers believe one or several parents complained about the flags being displayed in the classroom. Ball, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, resigned after being asked to remove a flag from his classroom.
"To me, the flag represents love and inclusion for everybody, not just whoever is of the LGBTQIA+ community," Ball told WOOD-TV. "I felt very disheartened and saddened. The students losing that representation throughout the classrooms really hurt, losing my own representation in the classroom really hurt. It was just something I was not prepared to do."
The next board meeting is set for December 6, where George has scheduled a "100 Allies For Acceptance" protest against the policy.
"The goal is to have 100 people show up and show that Three Rivers does support the LGBTQ community, and that love and sexual orientation is not political," Ball told WOOD-TV. "It is an identity, just the way you're born."
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