Williamson County residents discuss removal of Pride flags in classrooms

Many arguments for and against the flags were heard during Monday’s school board meeting.
Many arguments for and against the flags were heard during Monday’s public comment period at the monthly school board meeting.
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 10:46 AM CDT
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FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WSMV) - More than two dozen people made their opinions heard during a recent school board meeting in Franklin.

The Williamson County School Board meets on the third Monday of every month and allows 30 minutes in each meeting for public comment on “items of particular public interest.” Prior to this week’s meeting, 30 people requested time to speak on a recent motion to remove Pride flags from classrooms. Given the large number of requests, each person was only allotted one minute to speak.

The board, and their newly appointed chairperson, Angela Durham, heard differing views on the issue during the public comment portion of the meeting. Former students, parents, teachers, and other interested citizens made arguments both for the flags to be allowed, and against.

Jody Smith, whose child attends Grassland Elementary School, explained to the board her stance on inclusivity and diversity in the classroom.

“Symbols of diversity like Pride flags are not about pushing any particular agenda, but about creating an environment where every student feels valued and respected,” Smith said.

Centennial High School student Emmy Molar also spoke in support of teachers’ displaying Pride flags in their classrooms and argued

“Living in an environment that is not supportive can take a toll on just about anyone,” Molar said. “For LGBTQ youth, living in an environment that is not accepting is often a harsh reality...most young members of the LGBTQ+ community are forced to be in spaces that aren’t supportive or are even hateful towards them. Having Pride flags in schools in a small way to communicate to LGBTQ+ students that schools can be a safe space for them.”

The sentiment that Pride flags play a huge role in queer students’ mental well-being was shared by many of the speakers during Monday’s meeting.

Not all who spoke, however, feel the flags are necessary, but rather push an agenda and indoctrinate students in what to think.

“Why in the world do we need a Pride flag in a classroom to make kids feel like they’re safe? Does it mean that teachers that don’t choose to put a Pride flag up are unsafe? We do not need politics in the classroom,” stated Lisa Church, whose sons attended Brentwood High School. “Every teacher needs to make students feel safe, we do not need flags in the classroom.”

Another speaker argued that Pride flags displayed in classrooms would actually contribute to student bullying.

“The US flag represents unity, freedom, equality, patriotism, courage, sacrifice, hope, and resilience,” argued Elliot Franklin. “However, other flags in the classroom, such as the Pride flag could be distracting and might even cause increased bullying...two school boards [in CA] approved a new flag policy for all school buildings...and only the US and state flags be allowed. I ask that WCS consider a similar policy.”

A similar argument was made for only the American flag and the Tennessee flag to be allowed in classrooms by Bill Petty.

“We just pledged allegiance to the flag and I think it’s the only flag we should have in a classroom, other than the state flag,” Petty said.

The school board encouraged each person who spoke to stay engaged but did not take up the issue in Monday night’s agenda.

The discussion on whether Pride flags serve as security to some students or a distraction to others continues in many school districts across the country, and Williamson County will continue to hear all opinions in future meetings.