An Oregon school board updated a policy to mandate that each classroom in the school district display a Black Lives Matter and “progressive pride” flag or poster.
On May 6, the Gresham-Barlow School Board in Gresham, Oregon, updated the district’s “Flag Displays and Salutes” policy to reflect the progressive values of the board. The proposal would require the school board to provide an American flag, pride flag, and BLM flag for each classroom.
“The district shall obtain and display a U.S. flag, a progressive pride flag or poster and a Black Lives Matter flag or poster of an appropriate size for each classroom,” the policy reads.
Robyn Stowers, one of the more progressive school board members, insisted the board require all three flags to be the same size.
Stowers also demanded that any tribal government also be allowed to put a flag in each classroom upon request. The school board agreed that flying a flag at a local Oregon school district was not at the top of most tribe’s “to-do lists” but insisted on adding the provision anyway.
“Upon request from a sovereign tribal government, a flag representing the sovereign tribal government must be displayed on, near, or within a school building during school hours,” the policy reads. “The location of the flag will be determined by the district in consultation with the requesting sovereign tribal government.”
The board received a report from the Oregon School Board Association (OSBA) stating that there may be resistance and upset parents if the board forces teachers to fly the flags in each classroom. Another board member, Kris Howatt, cited the report and questioned whether it was worth it to force the flags on all teachers. She was told by a colleague that she was “pushing white supremacy.”
Howatt: How is putting this in the classroom with teachers that are not ready with students that want to ask questions or maybe don’t, how is this going to change if we say you have to do this? Anything that’s done where it’s mandatory feels like I don’t have a choice to learn and find out about it.
Stower: Learning is always your choice, Kris. We’ve already had these discussions and I refuse to re-educate you over and over and over again. You need to do your work.
School Board Member Amanda Orozco-Beach: This is stalling. It’s pushing white supremacy. It’s getting in the way of progress … We are trying to make sure that everyone is seen and heard. This policy wouldn’t even be such a big deal if it wasn’t for board members trying to push this and get the public involved. This is just pushing unnecessary trauma and it’s really inappropriate.
During the same committee meeting, the school board also reviewed the policy on the Pledge of Allegiance. The updated policy asks students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance “at least once each week during and school year,” recite a “land acknowledgment” each week, and recite the “Black national anthem.”
Stowers proposed that students recite the “land acknowledgment” immediately following the Pledge of Allegiance.
“It makes things easy; it makes things consistent, and it makes things equitable,” Stowers said.
The board also updated the “position purpose” statement of the district’s superintendent. Orozco-Beach proposed that the statement rely more heavily on the board’s commitment to equity.
“I wanted to include that we need to have a leader that understands that public schools are inherently racist institutions and they need to be committed to collaborate and work with the board to eliminate white supremacy culture in Gresham-Barlow schools,” Orozco-Beach said. “Our commitment to eliminating institutional racism and I think it’s important that if we hire our next superintendent that they would follow those values.”