Students, parents protest removal of Pride flags from Indiana high school

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A high school in northwestern Indiana has become the latest battleground over Pride flags being considered “political.”

The Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana reported that Lake Central High School in St. John removed a poster that said “In this classroom we believe science is real. Black lives matter. Love is love. Feminism is for everyone. Humans are not illegal. Kindness is everything.” after a complaint.

The newspaper reported that Superintendent Dr. Larry Veracco said the sign was “political” speech and therefore wasn’t appropriate in a classroom setting during a school board meeting.

Two hours worth of students, parents and teachers had a different opinion. They took turns at the microphone saying the decision was wrong and that taking the poster down harmed students. Many also called for the school in the Indiana suburbs of Chicago to be more inclusive.

According to Veracco, the poster is political speech – in Indiana.

From the Post-Tribune:

Veracco prefaced the item on the board agenda entitled “The Complexities of Political and Religious ‘Speech’” by passing out a legal opinion from Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Munster native. In the opinion, dated November 22, 2021, Rokita identifies “Black Lives Matter,” exclusively, as a “political organization.” Citing a litany of case law, Rokita categorized “non-neutral” classroom signage as non-verbal political speech.

In addressing the audience, Veracco said a display, such as an LGBTQ+ Pride flag, would not be considered political speech in that state of Illinois or Oregon, but in Indiana, according to the Rokita’s opinion and his supporting case law, it is classified as political.

Veracco said it has been determined that the poster in question fits into Rokita’s classification of non-verbal speech, and therefore is potentially disruptive to the educational environment.

He called on teachers to be more vigilant on bullying. However, during public comment, students said that some teachers and staff hadn’t responded when there was harassment. Others pointed out suicide rates for LGBTQ youth who don’t find support.

“This is not a political or religious issue,” said Kate Perschon, who has two kids at the school. “It is not a personal beliefs issue. This is a human rights issue, human rights for all people in a public school in a democracy.”

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