A Wisconsin board of education voted to enforce a long-standing policy banning “partisan politics, sectarian religious views, or selfish propaganda.” The ban extends to forbidding educators from including preferred pronouns in their email signatures.
Kettle Moraine School District, a Wisconsin district with 11 schools and 3,600 students, voted to ban political messaging, such as gay pride and Black Lives Matter flags, from classrooms.
School trustees announced stricter enforcement of board policy KMORR 522 (employee code of conduct) was being considered at its July 26 regular meeting. The board informed community members that, moving forward, staff would be forbidden to have political flags or religious messaging in their classroom.
District employees were also instructed to adhere to standardized email signatures that should not include preferred pronouns.
“We’re in a world where politics are highlighted, and it puts people in uncomfortable positions,” Superintendent of Schools Stephen Plum said during the July board meeting when the stricter enforcement was first announced.
Trustees approved the measure at their August 16 regular meeting after Plum said the district’s interpretation changed following a legal analysis. Only one member voted against the ban, according to the Fox News report.
“Teachers and administration will not have political flags or religious messaging in their classroom or on their person,” Plum said, according to Fox 6.
Community members and students packed the board’s meeting room last week to speak against the measure, the report noted.
“I am not controversial. I am not political,” one student reportedly told the board. “I am a person.”
“The fact is, the majority of students don’t want or need this, so catering to the minority only encourages the envelope to be pushed further,” another student reportedly said.
Two district students launched a change.org petition to rescind the policy; the petition received 13,909 signatures by Sunday.
High School students Bethany Provan and Brit Farrar expressed outrage in their petition over the new policy.
“We are both a part of the LGBTQIA+ community,” they commented. “When walking into a classroom where we see a pride flag hanging up, we have a sense of comfort and acceptance.”
“We both have experienced very hateful and homophobic comments in the halls of our high school.”
They segued into banning pronouns in email signatures, asking if it was a crime for teachers to indicate pronouns they prefer students use for them.
The Wisconsin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has said it will investigate the policy.
“If you have a policy that says ‘nothing political,’ does that mean you can’t have a sign up that says, ‘Support our Troops,’ or ‘Believe Women’ or ‘Save the Planet?’” asked Christine Donahoe, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin. “By some people’s definitions, all of those things are political.”
“It really looks like targeted attacks at specific viewpoints, like LGBT communities, or welcome and safe spaces to students of color,” Donahoe added.
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