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Two Wisconsin mothers with opposing positions explained their stances regarding their local school board’s vote to ban rainbow and Black Lives Matter flags in the classroom.
The Kettle Moraine School Board voted in August to prohibit teachers from displaying political and religious messages in the classroom, including those flags, as well as pro-police symbols.
“I think that our school board absolutely did the right thing,” Amy Richards, a mother of four, told Fox News. “The idea that we somehow need to be singling out one group of students is concerning to me because you are focusing on one issue and not dealing with your whole population.”
But Sarah Leuwerke, a mother of five, including a gay son, disagreed.
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“If a little piece of material in a room makes a kid feel more welcome whether they’re gay, straight or otherwise, I don’t see why it’s become an issue,” Leuwerke said.
She told Fox News that a pride flag should not be considered a political message.
“It’s a sign of respect,” Leuwerke said. “That’s all it is. It’s not a political statement.”
“This is a target on the LGBTQ community,” she continued. “This wasn’t an issue until a couple of people on the school board made it an issue and decided that sexual identity is political, which it is not.”
Richards said the policy aims to foster a bully-free environment and avoid biased messaging that could ultimately single out and isolate students.
“This was a clarification to say that there is no room in our classrooms for teachers to be signaling to students of any type what their belief system is,” she said.
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The school board meeting attracted some supporters, but most students and community members who attended spoke out against the policy. Richards said she was shocked to hear students opposing the ban share how the flags failed to stop instances of bullying.
She said the school board should take any necessary measures to promote “a culture where bullying is not acceptable for any child.”
But Leuwerke said the policy is “giving bullying a license.” She said the flags unify people and build positive relationships.
“I started to know who my village was,” Leuwerke told Fox News.
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Leuwerke’s 17-year-old son came out as gay but later felt isolated and angry. She leaned on teachers who met her son every day for support.
“I couldn’t do it on my own,” she said. “I knew where to reach out because of pride flags in classrooms.
“Those flags meant something to me as a parent because I knew, oh, you’re part of a community that I love and support,” she said.
Richards said two school board members elected in April were focused on promoting academic excellence and eliminating divisive materials in their campaigns, which she believes most parents are concerned about in schools.
“What we’re seeing is an absence of balance to help them learn how to think, not what to think,” Richards told Fox News. She said the school board’s decision was a step in the right direction to eliminate indoctrination.
“Proficiency in core areas are falling apart” for students nationwide, Richards said. “We want our students to be focused on learning.”
Student test scores plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the most significant decrease in reading scores in over three decades and the first recorded decline in math scores, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“We are not trying to shelter our children from other ideas,” she said. “But as parents, it’s our responsibility to decide when and how those ideas are introduced.”
“For certain teachers to decide that they’re going to take our role as parents without our involvement has gotten a lot of parents very fired up,” she said.
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But Leuwerke had other concerns.
“The trajectory of where we’re going is really scary,” she told Fox News. She said she regrets not moving her family to a Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, school district, which approved a sex education curriculum that teaches about transgenderism to students as young as fourth grade.
“I think they should educate on all of the things,” Leuwerke said, noting that pride flags are displayed almost everywhere. “I think we need to be grooming kids to leave high school and be active participants in the world.”