Students at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas staged a walk-out protest on Wednesday in response to the removal of a number of LGBTQ safe space stickers.
According to WFAA, the teachers who sponsor the school's Gay-Straight Alliance Club handed the stickers out to their fellow teachers earlier this year — but those stickers suddenly disappeared by the end of August.
"There's a lot of hurt, confusion and fear from students who feel like the administration has a problem with them for being LGBTQ+," Rachel Stonecipher, one of the sponsors of the club, told the outlet.
"I was a little scared too because I'm the only openly, very obviously gay teacher, lesbian teacher," the teacher said in a separate interview with CBS11.
Students have also reported being "randomly selected" for questioning by the administration.
"All of these randomly selected people have been to at least one Gay Straight Alliance meeting making it feel extremely targeted," sophomore Alyssa Harbin said during a recent school board meeting, according to CBS11.
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In a statement released after the protest, the Irving Independent School District said that "while educators have the right to express their personal viewpoints on their personal time," that does not extend to the classroom.
"In Irving ISD, our campuses are a safe zone for all students," the statement reads, in part. "To ensure that all students feel safe regardless of background or identity, the district has developed guidelines to ensure that posters, banners and stickers placed in classrooms, hallways or offices are curriculum driven and neutral in viewpoint."
"While educators have the right to express their personal viewpoints on their personal time, Irving ISD police EMB-local states that teachers shall not use the classroom to transmit personal beliefs regarding political or sectarian issues," the statement continued. "Legislators and courts have consistently sided with school districts and upheld district protocols that require neutral expression in classrooms."
Below is Irving ISD’s official statement regarding the protest at MacArthur High School today. pic.twitter.com/9zFau8lDuZ
— Irving ISD (@IrvingISD) September 22, 2021
Both CBS11 and WFAA reported that Stonecipher was removed from class last week and has not been seen back on campus since.
Stonecipher, who told CBS 11 that the students "don't need to be concerned about me," has maintained that the safe space stickers are not political.
"They are merely a signal that a teacher feels confident in their ability to have these conversations," she told WFAA. "That's it."
Neither Stonecipher nor the school district has commented on her employment status.