A video of a Cache Valley student cutting a gay pride flag down from a diversity week display to the cheers of students below went viral, casting a negative light on the school. Days later, students and parents rallied on the sidewalk outside in support of LGBTQ students.
The pride flag was placed by a teacher over the top of a Cuban flag, and students throughout the day were flipping the rainbow flag over the railing and out of the way of the Cuban flag, followed by someone else flipping it back. The cutting incident came after one of those exchanges.
Ridgeline High School Principal Brittany Foster explained that a rainbow flag originally ordered as part of the display didn’t work out and the school purchased a new one, but only after the other flags had been placed.
“That’s when the decision was made to quickly hang the flag even though there wasn’t a spot for it, and so the teacher ran out and hurried and put it up,” Foster told the Herald-Journal. “Unfortunately, she decided to put it up over another flag since she didn’t have scissors to cut the other one down and move it, and so she left the pride flag hanging over the Cuban flag.”
The teacher, Foster said, got busy and neglected to move the Cuban flag.
Foster said the student who cut down the flag was not at school the following day, but faces “some consequences” for his action.
School faculty moved all of the flags to a location not accessible to students and included the pride flag in that location.
“From there, they put up everyone’s flag, no one was covering any other (flag), and there were still kids threatening to take it and rip it down and burn it and trash it,” a Gay-Straight Alliance student member told the Herald-Journal. “So that was really worrying today.”
In fact, several LGBTQ students did not show up for school the day after the incident out of safety fears.
After the videos went viral, some Ridgeline students urged LGBTQ sympathizers to go to school in their “Sunday best” as a way of showing support, while parents and other community members organized a rally outside.
About 75 parents and supporters gathered near the school’s north doors with rainbow flags as classes ended for the day. None of the students leaving the school offered anything but support for the crowd.
The Cache County School District issued a statement addressing the incident:
“The Cache County School District is aware of an incident at Ridgeline High School which occurred at the end of the day on April 13, when a Pride flag was hung over the top of a country flag during a GSA event in the student commons. This flag was subsequently cut down by a student who was not part of the event. Neither the school nor the school district condones the insensitive and disrespectful removal of the flag, which was done without permission. In fact, this took place during Ridgeline’s Diversity Week, which is held to create awareness and celebrate the diversity of students, as well as increase inclusion among the Ridgeline student body. This type of incident reminds us of the importance of continually educating students, not just during a Diversity Week, on the importance of respecting one another and the right to attend school, participate in events, and learn in a safe and respectful school environment.”
District spokesman Tim Smith said he hopes something positive will result from the controversy. “These types of incidents are always helpful to further educate students,” Smith said. “It’s an unfortunate event, but also, we can make lemonade out of lemons.”