Students at a California high school are upset about the response of school officials to the theft and desecration by defecation of a Pride flag and plan to hold a community forum in protest.
According to a report in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, last month, two students brazenly walked into a science class at Paso Robles High School and stole a 3-by-5-foot Pride flag that was hanging on a wall. The pair quickly fled and escaped after the teacher Evan Holtz gave pursuit. Not long after, someone posted video of the flag in a toilet, showing someone defecating on the flag.
“It was definitely an act of hate directed at the LGBTQ+ community,” Geoffrey Land, a social sciences teacher at the school, told the Tribune, adding that many students felt attacked by the act.
A letter from students Ava Hughes, Genevieve Grimes, Danny Peres, Eve Barajas, and Ella Mitchell published in the Tribune agreed with Land.
“The attack on the flag was an attack on our security as students, and deserved a firm condemnation,” the students wrote in their letter.
Curt Dubost, district superintendent for the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, wrote a letter to teachers dated October 1 explaining the school’s actions in response to the incident. Rather than simply hold accountable and appropriately punish the two students responsible for the incident, Dubost announced a classroom ban on flags larger than 2-feet-by-2-feet. The move was not what LGBTQ+ students at the school wanted to hear.
“As the standard flag size is 3’ x 5’, the school purposefully banned the very flag that was desecrated,” the students continued in their letter. “What message does this send to students? The flag ban means the school has allowed the haters to win, while LGBTQ+ students feel punished for wanting to be seen and supported.”
“We don’t want to turn it into a politicized issue where a student enters a classroom and looks up, ‘Oh, there’s a rainbow flag here, or there’s a blue lives matter flag here — that determines what the partisanship is of my teacher.’” Dubost told the Tribune. “We think that that’s a real slippery slope. And so we continue to believe that this is a very reasonable compromise solution that allows rainbows, but within reason.”
“It’s obviously just banning the Pride flag altogether unless you want those little mini ones,” sophomore Eve Barajas, the school’s Equity Club president and one of the letter’s authors, said. “It’s a way of subtly just getting rid of it.”
In response, Barajas and her fellow students announced a “Coming Out Against Hate” community forum for Wednesday, October 20, from 6:0p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in front of their school’s performing arts center.
“We will join others in telling our stories, challenging acts of hate and calling on our leaders to do better,” the students promised in their letter. “We invite other teachers, students, parents and friends to join us in this important work.”
The Pride flag has been at the center of several anti-LGBTQ+ incidents on school campuses in recent months. In September, students at Bartram Trail High School in Florida, posted video to social media showing some students taunting members of the Gay Straight Alliance and stomping a Pride flag. Also last month, high school student Lowndes High School in Georgia was hit with multiple charges after video appeared to show him attacking a fellow student who was wearing a Pride flag in his high school cafeteria, violently throwing the flag into a trash can, and then attacking a fellow student who tried to stop him.
In June a student at Seminole Middle School was viciously attacked after they tried to display a Pride flag at a school picnic. Also in June, video posted to social media went viral that show a student at Defiance Middle School in Ohio being attacked and choked with the Pride flag he wore to school.