Controversy erupts over gay pride flag in classroom

Posted at 4:08 PM, Jan 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-10 11:47:52-05

PORTLAND, OR (KATU/CNN) - One school in Oregon is under fire for allowing teachers to display rainbow flags in their classrooms.

Some claim it divides students. But others say it makes them feel included.

"It was scary. I didn't know anybody coming into banks," Banks High School senior Skyler LaMotte said.

LaMotte remembers coming out as bisexual after he moved here from Forest Grove in the 8th grade.

"I was bullied. It didn't bother me too much because I know not to listen to it and take it to heart," Skyler LaMotte said.

And LaMotte says most of the community is supportive.

But he says seeing an LGBT pride flag on display in his government and economics class means something to him.

He says it's about a quarter the size of the American flag also hanging in that classroom.

"Knowing that there's a teacher here who acknowledges that there are kids of different sexualities and genders, it really makes me feel just homelike," LaMotte explained.

Last week, Superintendent Jeff Leo says a parent went on a radio show claiming a pride flag replaced a U.S. flag in one classroom, a claim he denies.

After Leo posted a news release saying as much on Facebook, several people commented including one woman who wrote:

"There needs to be no other flag in public schools except the American flag. Other flags should be displayed in the privacy of your own home, not a classroom. I vote to have it removed."

And another person commented.

"This social justice movement separates and divides people. United we stand, divided we fall. Enough. One flag is all this country needs."

"The fact that people feel that it is not just and not American makes me feel just a little unwelcomed," LaMotte said.

In his news release Leo said:

"At Banks School District, it is our goal to create an environment where all students feel welcome, safe, and supported."

"I'm glad that Banks is not a place of outward homophobia," former student Connor Reed said.

Reed graduated from Banks High in 2014.

He says he was not bullied after coming out as gay, also in 8th grade.

Even so, Reed said, “If one teacher had put up a pride flag, it would have been such, like, a lovely moment for me growing up."

State education officials say teachers are not specifically prohibited from displaying flags in classrooms.

Certain flags that can be considered hate speech, like the Confederate flag, are banned.

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