Parents and students in Auburn, Alabama, are petitioning the local high school to remove a rainbow flag from a teacher’s classroom, arguing that the LGBTQ symbol is as offensive to some as the Confederate flag.
“The flag creates a hostile and provocative learning environment for students not comfortable openly supporting the LGBTQ Community,” reads a letter sent to Auburn High School’s principal, WRBL reports. “It’s unprofessional for the teachers to openly display their political views in an unbiased and socially neutral public setting–creating a hostile and uncomfortable learning environment.”
The rainbow flag was originally created by the Auburn High School’s E.D.U.C.A.T.E. Club, an organization dedicated to diversity in the classroom, for a club fair. But petition signers argue that the flag should be compared to a teacher hanging up a “Confederate” or a “Heterosexual” flag in the classroom because the latter would lead to “emails” and “threatening of lawsuits” by protesters.
“The signers of this petition would like for you to consider the uproar and chaos that would ensue were a teacher to hang for example a Confederate, Christian, or Heterosexual Flag in their classroom,” the petition states. “There would likely be protests, emails from teachers, and threatening of lawsuits from parents with differing viewpoints.”
A counterpetition has since popped up on Change.org, defending the flag and the teacher’s right to display it in her classroom. Created by student Brandon Sinniger, that petition has over 4,500 signatures.
“To be made uncomfortable by opinions differing to your own is to function as a modern human,” Sinniger wrote. “Attempting to insulate a student from political discourse would be an insult to their intelligence.”
Auburn High School’s administration is addressing the original petition internally, although it remains unclear if the high school will take action. Superintendent Dr. Karen DeLano has since encouraged students and parents to deal with the issue in a way that builds community and discussion.
“In our country today, people are often seen addressing their objections through violence and hate,” Dr. DeLano said in a statement according to PinkNews. “It is my sincere desire to assist our students in learning to address their opinions and their values in a calm and respectful manner.”