MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A hotly debated Monongalia County School District policy will now be up for discussion by the Board of Education. A ban on flags of “political and inciteful nature” in schools and to the extent of where that ban begins and ends is going to be on the agenda for the regular meeting in November. The policy is being brought up by the board after weeks of protest over the inclusion of pride flags as part of the ban.
“I just still don’t see where the banning fo the pride flag falls within this policy,” said board member Daniel Berry on the motion. “I hate to see this go to rest and I would like to make a motion that we move on this further and put it to a vote for the board,” he said.
The decision to move forward with a potential policy change was made with little to no disagreements with other board members. After close to an hour long executive session with legal council, the motion to bring a policy change to the agenda was brought to the forefront with encouragement by the board to continue conversations about the pride flag and the policy as a whole.
“Once that discussion is over, then there’s another discussion, are there any flags banned, what flags are banned, so this will be dragged out for a very long time,” said Monongalia County School Board President Ron Lytle on what could follow a potential policy change. “But I don’t have a problem having a conversation and putting it on as an action item,” he said.
The question that will be brought up by board members is whether pride flags fall under the “political nature” statue of the policy. This question is continuing to bring protesters who have spoken out against the pride flag ban over the past two weeks. Their message continues to be critical of the political determination of pride flags by the board that LGBTQ+ students consider a message of identity.
“You said to the students ‘if you’re having trouble and don’t feel safe at our schools, you let us know and it will be taken care of,'” said local LGBTQ+ advocate Reverend Jenny Williams to the board emphasizing student safety. “The thing is they told you that they don’t feel safe, they repeatedly told you what would make them feel safe,” she said.
A decision to discuss the pride flag policy is one of several initiatives the board is considering to address concerns by LGBTQ+ students. Among those include “Safe Zone” training for Monongalia County Schools staff with the help of WVU’s LGBTQ+ Center, an expansion of mental health services and the inclusion of county schools’ diversity and inclusion committee in county school conversations.
For the board, the goal now is to make clear cut policies and initiatives that can make Monongalia County Schools an ideal place for every student to learn.
“We got to start seeing some data, I want to see is there a rise in bullying, is there something going on in that school system, how many reports from the principal, things (like that),” Lytle said. “We don’t want to say yet that kids are feeling safe, I like to actually start seeing reports on that stuff,” he said.