LOGAN—Parents, students and teachers continued to voice their concerns over whether or not LGTBQ pride flags should be displayed in classrooms during the Logan City School District Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.
The public comment section of the meeting was opened by Andrea Norton, a parent of a queer student at Logan High School who said her child has been bullied since elementary school for being who they are.
Norton said the symbols found on the doors of classrooms are a small but effective way of showing students they are valued and appreciated.
“The pride flag isn’t about trying to corrupt anyone or turn them to the dark side,” Norton said. “The pride flag is about making sure everyone feels accepted, appreciated and valued no matter who they are.”
Norton concluded asking the board to be careful with the message it sends to the students since mental health has been directly correlated to a student’s performance in school.
“When schools do things like making a concerted effort to ban the pride flag, it sends a message that our school doesn’t care about them and that they don’t really matter,” Norton said. “When they see a pride flag, they feel included, accepted, valued and safe.”
Katie Lee-Koven, an LHS parent, said she wanted to address the board in the previous meeting but instead went home and prepared a petition which she presented to the board with 258 signatures of members of the community who are in support of the symbols being in schools.
Lee-Koven said having symbols on kindergarten doors was not too early since kids in the LGBTQ community are in Hillcrest Elementary as well as kindergarten.
“Hillcrest represents inclusion and have worked really hard to make it such,” Lee-Koven said. “Furthermore, Logan School District has a reputation of being more inclusive than the surrounding school district. Isn’t that what we want?”
Lee-Koven asked the school board to not ask teachers to move their signs to their personal desk because students might not be able to see the symbol and would not know where the safe space is.
She said she wanted to show the board that there were many people who care about safe spaces for students and asked that the school board didn’t create policies because of one or two people but instead took this opportunity to educate the few people in opposition.
“Parents are not always right; me included,” Lee-Koven said. “Should you hear us out? Yes. Do you need to implement changes every time a parent contacts you? No.”
Lee-Koven suggested the school board create a committee of teachers and parents to discuss and present recommendations to the school board for issues such as this.
“Let them discuss this. Let them make some recommendations to you,” Lee-Koven said. “You have a teacher staffing shortage and rising teen suicide rates. Since teachers in today’s world have a lot of oversight and they maybe the person a suicidal teen comes to.”
LHS Senior Jay Bates Domenech shared their experience as a queer individual at the school describing how they were followed one day in a secluded hallway while being called homophobic slurs.
“Every day at school there are multiple times I am scared to be who I am,” Domenech said. “I am scared to be queer.”
Domenech told Cache Valley Daily that they believe the meaning of safe spaces has changed over the years and is seen as something different than what it is at its core which is “a space where students can feel safe.”
“It’s a scary world out there for queer students and having any spot that you can go to and you know nothing bad is going to happen to you there is not only good but necessary for survival,” Domenech said.
Andrea Sinfield who was representing a group of Adams and Hillcrest elementary school moms asked the board to ensure the elementary school focus on the curriculum and not on the movement the was co-opted by people pushing agendas and confusing children.
Sinfield said that any organization that promotes secrecy from parents is a red flag.
“When I see teachers…bragging online about hiding students’ preferred pronouns from parents or some schools not needing parent’s permission to give hormone blockers or gender affirming care given to minors without the policy holder’s notice, those are red flags,” Sinfield said.
Sinfield said every teacher should be seen as a safe space whether or not they have the symbol.
“Do not get trapped into thinking the only way to create a safe space in schools is by advertising symbols involving social groups,” Sinfield said. “Safe spaces provide healthy positive interpersonal connections, not printed signs hanging on the door.”
Former educator and member of the LCSD Board Connie Morgan said she worked at a school that had one of the first Gay Straight Alliance clubs and said that none of the dreadful things people thought would happen, happened.
“What did happen there was friendship, unity, not isolation and not suicide,” Morgan said. “What happened was service projects together and understanding.”
Morgan said that even though she had a sign in the front of her room that said, “You are unique. You have value, worth and dignity and no one can take it away from you,” she said she always had to tell her students that some people would try to take it away.
She asked the board if the safety of students was more important than the comfort of adults.
“Why would we risk student lives for adult comfort?” Morgan asked. “If you are sitting on the fence, why would you not fall over on the side of school, of students?”
Domenech said students need to be supported and need to know their teachers and loved ones respect them including their pronouns which Domenech said only about 10 percent of people respect their pronouns.
“Queer students are students,” Domenech said. “we’re not pushing any agenda for wanting our teachers to support us.”