Students petition for right to display LGBTQ+ flag on school grounds

In+the+photo+above%2C+sophomore+Christian+Alfano+holds+one+of+the+mini+pride+flags+that+was+passed+out+before+school%2C+Monday%2C+Oct.+18.+Students+rallied+to+protest+for+LGBTQ%2B+rights+in+the+face+of+anti-LGBTQ%2B+speeches+given+at+recent+school+board+meetings.+People%C2%A0should+be+allowed+to+feel+comfortable+with+loving+other+people+%E2%80%94+it+shouldn%E2%80%99t+be+a+crime+or+something+to+be+embarrassed+about%2C+senior+Jordyn+Leggiere+said.+Everyone+deserves+to+love.

Kalyani Rao

In the photo above, sophomore Christian Alfano holds one of the mini pride flags that was passed out before school, Monday, Oct. 18. Students rallied to protest for LGBTQ+ rights in the face of anti-LGBTQ+ speeches given at recent school board meetings. “People should be allowed to feel comfortable with loving other people — it shouldn’t be a crime or something to be embarrassed about,” senior Jordyn Leggiere said. “Everyone deserves to love.”

Kalyani Rao, Assistant Opinion Editor

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An anti-LGBTQ+ speech given at an Aug. 23 school board meeting motivated Rock Hill High School student Kelsey Reid to start a Change.org petition to “allow the Prosper ISD School District to freely display the LGBTQ+ flag,” as well as address discrimination against LGBTQ+ students in the district. Students passed out pride flags before school Monday, Oct. 18, to show support for the LGBTQ+ community, but administration members informed the students they were not allowed to pass them out, due to PISD restrictions on the distribution of unapproved material.

As of Oct. 18, Reid’s petition has almost 1,000 signatures.

A video clip of one of the speeches given at the meeting is shown below.

Transcript of the video: “… And then you have what is this, LGBT, whatever all this stuff is going on, you got flags, you think that’s okay? You know it’s not. You know it’s not. It is not okay, biblically it is not okay, it is a sin. Take it out of our schools, our children don’t need this crap. [Audience cheers]”

In the description of the petition, Reid shares her experiences from being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, where she mentions she has faced many incidences of discrimination in the district, along with other students, who face “fellow classmates … spewing hate speech and slurs.”

Reid said the school board “has not done much” to address the problems that LGBTQ+ students are facing in the district.

“I understand having a different opinion,” Reid wrote in the petition description. “But I do not understand, nor tolerate, bigotry.”

Assistant Principal John Boehringer gave a statement Oct. 18 regarding whether flags can be displayed in classrooms.

“As far as flags or signage in the classroom, we ask that classroom decor be academic in nature and related to the course subject taught in the room,” Boehringer said. “If the faculty member is a sponsor for a club or organization, they may display related material at appropriate times when the organization is meeting.”

Assistant Principal Paige Trujillo, the Prosper High School assistant principal, who informed the students they were not allowed to pass out the pride flags, also gave a short statement on the matter.

“We have to have administrator approval for any materials that are passed out,” Trujillo said. “We have a great relationship with all of our kiddos … I can’t comment on the specifics of what happened, for the privacy of our students.”

According to the United States Department of Education, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevents administration staff from legally disclosing the records of students without permission.

“Although students generally have First Amendment free speech rights at school, districts have the discretion to implement reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on student speech,” Chief of Administrative Services and General Counsel Jeff Crownover said. “A school should not prohibit flags or pamphlets from being passed out at school based on the content of the flags/pamphlets.  However, it can prohibit the distribution of all flags/pamphlets regardless of content, as long as there is a reasonable basis for doing so, such as preventing materials from being left lying around the halls.”

Students have expressed varying reactions to the current situation.

“I don’t personally experience any sort of discrimination for my sexual orientation. But, I know that there are definitely people here who do,” junior Kennedi Laur said. “This morning when people saw the pride flags for the protest, they automatically started saying slurs and trying to steal them, and that hateful reaction just shows that change is truly needed in our community.”

Students – like senior Jordyn Leggiere – said they have continued to reach out and talk to friends about their feelings.

“People should be allowed to feel comfortable with loving other people — it shouldn’t be a crime or something to be embarrassed about,” senior Jordyn Leggiere said. “I think the world needs to be a little more welcoming when it comes to the topic of love.”

At the time of publishing, Reporter Kalyani Rao reached out to Jeff Crownover, Chief of Administrative Services & General Counsel at Prosper ISD,  for comment, but did not receive a response.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Nov 1 to add information from Mr. Crownover.