A group of students and parents are sharply divided over an Alabama high school’s display of a rainbow flag to promote extracurricular activities.
Over 270 supporters have signed an Aug. 18 petition requesting that a rainbow flag displayed at Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama be removed. The flag was created by the school’s EDUCATE club, which promotes diversity, and appeared last week at a fair for extracurricular groups and activities, local NBC affiliate WSFA reported.
Addressed to Auburn High School Principal Shannon Pignato, the petition argues that the presence of the flag creates “a hostile and uncomfortable learning environment” for those who don’t support LGBTQ rights. Supporters also call for the flag’s removal to ensure a “welcoming, beneficial, and unbiased learning environment for students from all political backgrounds.”
“We feel like an expression of such polarizing views is a detriment to the overall learning environment of that class as it alienates students with differing political viewpoints,” the petition, which can be found here, reads. It then asked readers to “consider the uproar and chaos that would ensue were a teacher to hang for example a Confederate, Christian, or Heterosexual” flag in the classroom.
“There would likely be protests, emails from teachers, and threatening of lawsuits from parents with differing viewpoints,” it continued. “As such, one does not see teachers hanging these flags in classrooms due to the same argument that it is unprofessional and can create a hostile and unideal learning environment.”
Meanwhile, support for a “counter petition” defending the rainbow flag display has vastly outnumbered the original. “In the real world, to suggest individuals be isolated from differing political views is an absurdity. To be made uncomfortable by opinions differing to your own is to function as a modern human,” that petition, which can be found here and had over 4,200 supporters as of Monday afternoon, reads. “Attempting to insulate a student from political discourse would be an insult to their intelligence.”
In an email sent to HuffPost, Pignato said she was “aware of the situation” regarding the petition, and was “working with staff and students to address the concerns.” The high school was “a reflection of the Auburn community,” she wrote, and therefore, “societal issues present themselves on campus.”
“In our country today, people are often seen addressing their objections through violence and hate,” she added. “It is my sincere desire to assist our students in learning to address their opinions and values in a calm and respectful manner.”
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