Wisconsin mothers defend and criticize school board pride ban and BLM flags

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Two Wisconsin mothers with opposing positions explained their positions regarding their local school board’s vote to ban rainbow flags and Black Lives Matter in the classroom.

The Kettle Moraine School Board voted in August to ban teachers from displaying political and religious messages in the classroom, including these flags, as well as pro-police symbols.

“I think our school board absolutely did the right thing,” Amy Richards, a mother of four, told Fox News. “The idea that we need to somehow target a group of students worries me because you’re focusing on one problem and not your entire population.”

But Sarah Leuwerke, mother of five, including a gay son, disagreed.

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Wisconsin has voted to ban political messages in classrooms, including pride flags. “/>

The Kettle Moraine School Board in Wisconsin has voted to ban political messages in classrooms, including pride flags.
(REUTERS/Axel Schmidt)

“If a little piece of material in a room makes a kid feel more comfortable, whether they’re gay, straight, or whatever, I don’t see why that’s become a problem,” Leuwerke said.

She told Fox News that a pride flag shouldn’t be considered a political message.

“It’s a sign of respect,” Leuwerke said. “That’s all it is. It’s not a political statement.”

“He’s a target for the LGBTQ community,” she continued. “It wasn’t a problem until a few people on the school board made it a problem and decided that this gender identity is political, which it isn’t.”

Richards said the policy is intended to foster a bullying-free environment and avoid biased messaging that could ultimately single out and isolate students.

“It was a clarification that there is no place in our classrooms for teachers to point out to students of any type what their belief system is,” she said.

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The school board meeting drew some supporters, but most of the students and community members in attendance spoke out against the policy. Richards said she was shocked to hear from students opposing the ban explaining how flags have failed to stop instances of bullying.

The American flag, rainbow pride flag and a Black Lives Matter flag fly over the Nativity School in Worcester.

The American flag, rainbow pride flag and a Black Lives Matter flag fly over the Nativity School in Worcester.
(Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

She said the school board should take all necessary steps to promote “a culture where bullying is not acceptable for any child.”

But Leuwerke said the policy “gives license to bullying”. She said flags unite people and build positive relationships.

“I started knowing who my village was,” Leuwerke told Fox News.

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Leuwerke’s 17-year-old son came out as gay but then felt isolated and angry. She relied on the 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 the pride flags in the classrooms.

“These flags meant something to me as a parent because I knew, oh, you are 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 material in their campaigns, which she said is of concern to most parents in schools.

“What we’re seeing is a lack of balance to help them learn 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.

“Competence in core areas is plummeting” for students nationwide, Richards said. “We want our students to focus on learning.”

The Ministry of Education released a report which found that student test scores have declined during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Education released a report which found that student test scores have declined during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Allison/Bloomberg dinner via Getty Images)

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, student test scores have fallen during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the most significant drop in reading scores in more than three decades and the first recorded drop in math scores.

“We’re not trying to insulate our children from other ideas,” she said. “But as parents, it is our responsibility to decide when and how these ideas are introduced.”

“The fact that some teachers decide they’re going to take on our role as parents without our involvement has excited a lot of parents,” she said.

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But Leuwerke had other worries.

“The trajectory of where we’re going is really scary,” she told Fox News. She said she regrets not moving her family to a school district in Wauwatosa, Wis., that has approved a sex-ed curriculum that teaches students about transgender as early as fourth grade.

“I think they should educate about all of these things,” Leuwerke said, noting that pride flags are displayed almost everywhere. “I think we need to prepare kids to leave high school and be active participants in the world.”

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