School District Bans Large Pride Flags after Acts of Vandalism

Wednesday October 27, 2021

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The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District has banned large Pride flags in its classrooms after a group of students posted a TikTok showing themselves attempting to flush a flag and defecating on it, local newspaper The Tribune reported.

The incident started "about three weeks ago," the news item said, when two students at Paso Robles High School "ripped down the 3-by-5-foot LGBTQ Pride flag that was hanging on one of the walls" of a classroom.

Another student gave chase, but was unable to stop the theft. "Later, a video surfaced on TikTok of students attempting to flush the rainbow Pride flag down a toilet," the article added. When that didn't work, "the video showed one student defecating on the flag in the toilet, according to those who had seen and heard about the video," which is no longer online.

Calling the vandalism "an act of hate directed at the LGBTQ community," teacher Geoffrey Land said that the school's students "felt that attack very acutely." Students were quick to take action and replace the stolen and vandalized flag.

The school district's response, however, was markedly different: To ban flags larger than two feet by two feet, as well as banning all flags that are alterations of the U.S. flag.

District Superintendent Curt Dubost sent a letter to the district's personnel, noting that Pride flags "to many are a symbol of safety, inclusion and equity," and adding that the district has "a duty...to ensure that hate speech and bullying conduct does not create an unsafe campus environment."

That said, Dubost announced the new restriction on flag sizes.

Some students felt that the downsizing of permissible flags diminished them.

"It's obviously just banning the Pride flag altogether unless you want those little mini ones," the 15-year-old president of the Equity Club, Eve Barajas, told the newspaper.

"From a young age, I've seen my identity and my existence be debated in the media, in front of me, in real life," the sophomore added.

"So this isn't something that's new to me. But seeing it be allowed by my district is what is distressing me."

"Students said the incident brought into sharp focus the bullying, microaggressions and hate they face daily at Paso High for being queer," the newspaper article said.

"We can't exist without being a controversy at this school," Ava Hughes, a senior, told The Tribune. "We're minors, and they're forcing us to hide or protest."

"Someone defecated on a Pride flag," another senior, Danny Perez, said. "So the school takes away the Pride flag, not the homophobia?"

But the students soon found other ways to express themselves, creating messages of support on regular sheets of paper that they displayed throughout the school. They also organized a community forum, the article said.

"We have a culture of homophobia here," Hughes told The Tribune. "We literally have no other option than to put ourselves kind of at risk and in danger. Because we can't let this continue."