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Big Walnut Schools ban display of LGBTQ along with other 'activist' and 'controversial' symbols

LGBTQ flags
Alberto Pezzali
The Big Walnut School District board voted to ban the display of LGBTQ pride flags and other flags and symbols the district deems "controversial" or "activist."

The Big Walnut Board of Education voted Thursday evening to ban the display of LGBTQ pride flags and other symbols it deems "controversial" or "activist" at a heated meeting where dozens of students and community members spoke against the policy.

The board voted 3-2 after about two hours of public comment and contentious debate between board members. Board President Doug Crowl, along with board members Angela Graziosi and Alice Nicks voted in favor of the flag ban, while board members Stephen Fujii and Todd Smith voted against the resolution, which immediately went into effect.

The resolution does not identify a specific symbol or flag that is banned, but it does carve out exemptions for which symbols are allowed.

Under the resolution, the district prohibits the display of "activist" or "controversial" symbols, but explicitly allows for the United States and Ohio flags, the Big Walnut flag, the district’s mascot and symbols under the following categories:

  • Displays in the classroom “as part of a temporary unit of study within the curriculum,” or “denote a recognition of achievement and are approved by the superintendent.”
  • Ohio High School Athletic Association or similar sport tournament displays.
  • Displays from branches of the military and universities.
  • Flags of countries representing foreign exchange students.

While not explicitly mentioned in the policy, the LGBTQ pride flag was the focus of the meeting for both the district's board of education members and the public. Nicks said she proposed the policy because a parent told her their child was not comfortable and didn't feel respected because a teacher displayed an LGBTQ pride flag in the classroom.
Organizations like the Big Walnut Pride Society will still be able to hang posters with unapproved symbols on them on designated student-run bulletin boards in school buildings under the policy.

Before the vote, over 30 people spoke for a maximum of three minutes each. Few supported the resolution and most people spoke against it. Many who spoke against it are current students and teachers in the district.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.