Stonington superintendent reverses course on Pride flag issue
Stonington ― Superintendent of Schools Mary Anne Butler has reversed course on her controversial decision to remove Pride flags from classrooms.
Butler released a statement on Thursday which read, “after seeking additional legal council, working with the Stonington Education Association and hearing from numerous families and community members and indirectly from students, I recommend the Board of Education find the display of the Pride Flags in Stonington classrooms and school buildings falls outside of the current board policies specific to partisan political displays, political influence and political messaging within our classrooms.”
She continued, “these flags are statements of diversity, equity, and inclusion that cross party lines and are not partisan. We demonstrate diversity, equity and inclusion work in many ways, including our curriculum. Displaying the Pride Flag is an important visual reminder of our commitment to that work. It is in keeping with the Board of Education’s second Goal of addressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
The reversal comes a week after Butler ordered the flags be removed from classrooms in the district. Since then a large group of residents and officials have criticized the decision.
Butler had previously said that the issue arose when a parent expressed a concern about a Pride flag in a classroom and asserted it was a violation of the district’s policy on political materials in classrooms.
That policy bans the display or distribution of political materials during school hours, unless they are used for educational purposes, and further requires that materials be presented in an unbiased, objective manner which is appropriate to the age of the students. The rainbow-colored flag symbolizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride and social movements.
Board of Education Chairman Farouk Rajab has said Butler made the initial decision based on guidance she received from board policies and other legal advice.
The Board of Education has now scheduled a special meeting in response to calls from parents and residents for a public forum to express their concerns for Tuesday, October 25, at 7 p.m. at the former Pawcatuck Middle School at 40 Field St. in Pawcatuck.
Agenda items for the meeting include Butler’s recommendation, the school board recommendation, followed by public comment. A final decision is expected at the meeting.
Teachers’ union President Michael Freeman released a brief statement on Thursday after a private meeting held Wednesday evening between three school board members and representatives from the Stonington Education Association.
“Last night representatives from the Stonington Education Association met with representatives of the Stonington Board of Education and had a very thoughtful and constructive dialogue over the issues with pride flags being displayed in Stonington Schools. We believe we will be able to work together and collaboratively come to a swift resolution that will be in the best interests of the students and teachers,” he said.