School Ready To Fire Teacher Over Rainbow Stickers

By Rick Gonzales | Published

pride symbols

When the school year started for students at a high school in Irving, Texas, they were greeted by the school’s administration having scraped off the rainbow stickers that had been posted on campus. The removal of the pride symbols was the impetus for hundreds of students walking out in protest. Now, seven months after the walkout, LGBTQ students at the school say things have only gotten worse.

How much worse? Well, one teacher, a faculty sponsor of MacArthur High’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is about to have her contract terminated. Another GSA faculty sponsor is preparing to resign while a third teacher has been removed from the classroom. The weekly meetings that the GSA has been holding turned into monthly meetings. The GSA meeting attendance, which routinely hit around 40 students, dropped down to less than 10. The student newspaper, which was informed they were not allowed to report on any GSA issue, has virtually shut down. Two of the high school teachers claim that the school’s principal asked them to remove the gay pride symbol of rainbow flags they had in their classroom and office.

Removal of the pride symbols is just one of the many issues facing the school’s LGBTQ students and their advocates. A number of students report that either they or their LGBTQ classmates have been harassed by being called homophobic slurs and bullied. They claim they feel less safe at the school now as compared to a year ago.

pride symbols

The issue seen at MacArthur High is not the result of a new law or new school policy. There hasn’t even been pressure from the public in general at the recent school board meetings. But LGBTQ students are feeling unease, as are a number of the GSA faculty sponsors who have spoken out about an issue that’s about more than just pride symbols.

Christine Latin is one of five GSA faculty sponsors. She is the school’s dance instructor, and she is also the teacher who plans to resign at the end of the school year. “They’re not going to come out outright and say, ‘Don’t say gay,’” she said of MacArthur High’s administration, “but they’re going to make it as difficult as possible for you to be allowed to express yourself or even learn about how you feel, who you are and your identity.”

The whole issue began when teachers began posting pride symbols around the school. They would put these stickers on classrooms to show support for LGBTQ students and let them know they were allies. They wanted these students to know they had a safe place. But the administration didn’t see it that way and removed them.

pride symbols

“The damage that was done by scraping them down was far worse than just never having them in the first place,” said Rachel Stonecipher to Yahoo News, one of the GSA faculty sponsors. Stonecipher teaches English and Journalism at the school, or should we say “taught” at the school. Stonecipher was put on administrative leave in September and based on that, she was barred from any contact with students or teachers.

Stonecipher believes her September removal was because of her outspoken support of the LBGTQ students and the pride symbols. She also encouraged her journalism students to investigate the administration’s removal of the pride symbols. According to Stonecipher, the school district’s human resources believed that she called the high school principal “homophobic.” Stonecipher denies she did. They also believed that she made her colleagues uncomfortable each time she shared her opinion about any LGBTQ issues, which included the taking down of the pride symbols. Stonecipher has since been notified that the school district plans to end her contract.

The district did have something to say on the matter. In their statement, they claim there is no retaliation against the teachers for expressing their personal views but they did note that district policy “prohibits teachers from using the classroom to transmit their personal beliefs.” In their statement, the school district said they also strive to “provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for every student, employee and family.” The district said they understand that the pride symbols the teachers put up were to make the LGBTQ students feel safe and supported. They then added, “Labeling certain classrooms as safe havens for certain groups could communicate to students who do not see themselves reflected in that classroom’s decorations that they are unwanted or unsafe in those rooms.”

Last September, right before Stonecipher was removed from the school, district officials claim that a teacher complained about the pride symbols, saying that putting them up on certain classroom doors shows that the other classrooms without the pride symbol sticker are not safe spaces for LGBTQ students. The GSA faculty sponsors then filed a complaint and two days later Stonecipher was pulled from her classroom.

In a recent school board meeting, the trustees upheld the pride symbol ban. This prompted Latin to put in her resignation. “I feel like staying is being complicit and accepting their actions and leadership, and I just can’t accept it,” she said to NBC News. “It goes against every bit of who I am to my core. I teach my kids to stand up for what they believe in, and so this is kind of just an ultimate show of doing that.”

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