Controversy has hit the Skyridge High School community after an Instagram post by the school showed an English teacher’s classroom decorated with a large rainbow pride flag, along with nine other flags recognizing a various sexual orientations like bisexual, nonbinary, transgender and pansexual.
The Instagram post was posted to congratulate a student for winning the school’s science fair, but the background flag décor resulted in several parents bringing concerns to the Skyridge administration. After parent concerns were raised, the school cropped out the large rainbow pride flag from the photo and reposted it. Later the school deleted the post altogether.
A debate has ensued on social media outlets about whether the flag displays are a violation of Alpine School District (ASD) policy.
Alpine School District policy 7300 states that “Displays in facilities, classrooms, or buses are not public forums for the display or distribution of political, religious, or personal viewpoints, and employees may not use them for the posting or display of materials to promote or convey a political, religious, or personal message.’ Utah Code 53G-10-202.
“Based on ASD policies that you posted, those flags should not have been displayed in that teacher’s classroom. Those symbols are politically progressive speech, favoring one group over another. Those types of displays do not represent all kids or every single student. These flags are sexual symbols. They are divisive, not inclusive,” Skyridge parent Holly Franz said in a social media post.
“The policy comes directly from a training provided by the Utah State Board of Education. The policy is designed to protect all students and to create a great learning environment for all students. Not create an environment for a few,” argued community member Steve Sparti.
On the other side of the argument, parents and other community members, including Lehi school board member Stacy Bateman, argued in defense of the flag’s presence in classrooms.
“The simple truth is that public education is for all kids. Every single student who walks through our doors belongs there. I am incredibly disappointed that a small group of parents decided this was something worth setting the world on fire. I’m proud of the students who spoke up and said this was not ok [to have the flags removed]. Nothing about the pride flag is political. It’s unfortunate that some parents are making it that way. No one broke any rules,” posted Bateman on her personal ASD Facebook page.
“As a parent and long-time supporter of this school, it is my opinion that the flag in question was neither a display nor a promotion of a political message any more than the presence of the state flag or Star-Spangled Banner. As a school board member, my goal is to support our students in receiving the best education they can prepare them to be successful in their lives,” said Bateman when reached for comment to clarify her interpretation of the district policy against displaying political, religious or personal messages.
Skyridge parent, Willowcreek Middle School teacher and political activist Briawna Hugh shared similar sentiments in her social media discussion with other community members.
“If we can ensure that our LGBTQ+ students have such a simple means of acknowledgment and support, how is that a bad thing? The health and safety of our cisgender students are not threatened to the same extent as the health and safety of our LGBTQ+ students. Utah has one of the highest rates of suicide, self-harm, and bullying against queer students in the nation. Helping our students develop empathy is a key component of every facet of our community, including our education system. You don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle or Identity to show empathy and compassion,” said Hugh.
This incident comes less than two years after a Lehi High School teacher was terminated for a political tirade against conservatives during her chemistry class and less than one year after a 4th-grade teacher at Renaissance Academy posted a TikTok video sharing her classroom policy of discussing sexual orientation with her students.
“Alpine School District is investigating the situation at Skyridge High School and is reviewing the guidelines regarding “incidental materials” in Policy 6161 to ensure compliance with state law Utah Code 53G-10-202. Appropriate action will be taken as this investigation is completed,” said ASD Director of Communications David Stephenson when reached for comment.
The district is considering whether the flags are “materials intended to be used as part of a single unit during classroom instruction,” according to their statement referencing an investigation of Policy 6161.
The district declined to comment on whether the flags have been removed, but sources have confirmed that the flags have been taken down.