When it comes to fostering education during the ongoing global pandemic, there are numerous valid concerns for all involved: How can we keep students, teachers, and staff safe? How can hybrid and online learning be equal when some students simply don’t have the resources they need at home? Can young people really be expected to keep a mask on all day? All big and important questions—and yet, somehow, Republicans are dead set on demonizing LGBTQ+ people all over again.
We’ve covered the efforts local school boards are going to when it comes to banning LGBTQ+ books from libraries. We’ve covered the involvement of Republican hopefuls in fanning the anti-queer (and specifically, anti-trans) hysteria. Sadly, we’ve also covered a number of allegations from teachers about essentially being forced out of their jobs at schools because of their sexual orientation. And now another story comes to us from Michigan, where a middle school teacher says he resigned after being told to take down his classroom Pride flag.
Russell Ball, a health and physical education teacher at Three Rivers Middle School, told Michigan Live he received an email from school administrators instructing him (and all staff) to take down any Pride flags hung up in the building. According to Ball, he was told that district attorneys had advised the superintendent to have teachers remove the flags. Ball, who is openly bisexual, hung a Pride flag in his classroom to help all students feel welcome.
“I had students that were happy to see the flag and in the room that were telling me, ‘Thank you for being here,'” Ball told local outlet FOX 17 in an interview.
That initial email came on a Friday, Nov. 19, and Ball said that the following Monday, he still had his Pride flag up. During the same day, he received a text from the school’s assistant principal advising him to remove the flag within several class periods. Ball told the outlet that he didn’t just remove the flag—he gathered his stuff and resigned. As of now, Ball plans to be a stay-at-home dad and alleges he hasn’t heard anything from the district since he resigned.
In speaking to MLive in an interview, Ball told the outlet that he thinks the Pride flag stands for “love and inclusion for everybody” and that taking down the flag felt like he would be “complicit in suppressing and continuously marginalizing the students that have already been significantly marginalized.”
Ball’s story went viral after he shared a video to TikTok about his resignation. Sadly, Ball is far from the only teacher we’ve covered who says they’ve been pushed out of jobs in education either because of their sexual orientation or because of the presence of a simple Pride flag.
You might remember, for example, students walking out of school and protesting on behalf of an openly gay volleyball coach who says he was forced to resign because of his sexual orientation. Or the California teacher who was removed from the classroom after jokingly telling a student they could pledge allegiance to the Pride flag. Or the Missouri teacher who resigned, saying his school district ordered him to remove the Pride flag from his classroom. Or the school board in Utah that quietly prioritized banning Pride flags in classrooms amid the pandemic.
The stories start to feel dizzying. Republicans love to suggest that Pride flags are political, but they’re not, just like Black Lives Matter slogans, for example, aren’t tied to a particular political party or candidate. People are not political pawns or symbols, though conservatives aren’t quite willing to admit that.
You can check out Ball’s TikTok video below over on YouTube, as well.