Michigan teacher quits after being ordered to remove Pride flag from classroom

A physical health teacher in southwest Michigan has reportedly resigned from his job after administrators at a middle school forced him to remove a Pride flag from his classroom.

Russell Ball told a local news website that he resigned on 22 November after administrators at Three Rivers Medical School ordered the removal of all Pride flags.

The school, which is roughly 40 miles north east of South Bend, Michigan, allegedly told teachers that it was acting on advice from the district attorney in St Joseph County.

Mr Ball told MLive that he identifies as bisexual and that “Removing the flag kind of felt like I was being complicit in suppressing and continuously marginalising the students that have already been significantly marginalised, and I wasn’t gonna take a part in that.”

He said he resigned on Monday after refusing to comply with the school’s request, which had been issued on Friday, and a further warning from the head of the school to remove his Pride flag before the end of the day.

“It is something that’s so important to me, that that my students have that safe space, that I wasn’t willing to continue in education without it,” he told MLive.

The six-colour Pride flag was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 and symbolises the LGBT+ community. It has more recently been updated to feature people of colour through the Progress Pride flag.

A former Three Rivers Middle School student told News Channel 3 that his initial reaction to the news was “Disgust, honestly, and a little bit of disbelief, and that he was helping to organise a demonstration.

“I think in the year 2021, obviously gay marriage is legal in the state of Michigan,” explained Andrew George. “A lot of the stigma’s from when I was younger and when I was in high school are gone now. And I know they’re not absolutely gone.”

Three Rivers’s superintendent Nikki Nash told the channel that it was “an ongoing situation” and that the middle school was working “with the district’s legal firm and board of education to ensure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students”.

Her remarks come amid reports that the Pride flag removal was the result of an “external challenge” that had come to the school board, which is due to meet on 6 December.

LGBT+ rights, and in particular the rights of transgender individuals, have frequently been attacked by right-wing lawmakers and administrators, many of whom have also been vocal about not teaching the history of racism in US classrooms.

The Independent has contacted Three Rivers Middle School for further comment.

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