SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Jeremy Baldwin has taught at Booker High School for five and a half years. He says he has made it a point to make sure students feel comfortable and welcome in his class.
Until last week, he had three flags displayed in his class. He says they are meant to symbolize peace, love and acceptance. One of the flags is a “COEXIST” flag in the colors of the rainbow.
“It’s just something that’s meant to be there and gives the room a vibe where everyone is welcome and we’re just going to get along and co-exist,” the social studies professor explained.
After four years of displaying the ‘COEXIST’ rainbow flag in his classroom, he was surprised when headteachers told him last week that the flag should be removed as it was ‘political’ in nature. .
Baldwin pointed out that the district’s decision to remove the flag comes shortly after Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education Bill, dubbed by opponents the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “.
“I know the law doesn’t say anything about ‘don’t say gay’ but, in action, it sure looks like it’s ‘don’t say gay’ so right after it passed, a flag I’ve had for four years old is now suddenly asked to be removed because it’s considered political,” Baldwin said. “Other than being told it was political by my manager, no one will define why that rainbow flag is considered political.
The WFLA asked Sarasota County Schools the reasoning behind the decision and why the flag was allowed in Baldwin’s classroom for the past four years and received the following statement in response from a spokesperson via email :
“In regards to Booker High School, we can confirm that a teacher was asked to remove a flag from their classroom that was deemed to violate school board policy 2.51 (political activity on school board grounds). All district administrators, school administrators, teachers, staff members, and students are expected to adhere to school board policies and work together to maintain a safe and effective work and learning environment. for everyone.
Baldwin says students at Booker High School have expressed frustration and confusion over the district’s political decision.
“The biggest question I got from my students was, ‘Why is this political? It’s not Republican, it’s not Democratic,'” the Sarasota teacher explained. not trying to persuade anyone to believe one way or another, it’s just a show of acceptance and approval, that’s the most frustrating thing.”
Some members of the Sarasota County School Board are questioning the policy.
“I know politics is quoted as political, but I don’t consider the rainbow flag to be political. I see it as an identity, which is not a political thing,” said school board member Thomas Edwards.
School board member Shirley Brown said she plans to raise the issue at the next board workshop scheduled for May 3.
“Let’s show the kids that we appreciate them, that we’re not going to turn our backs on them and go back 20 years,” Baldwin said. “Let’s be a progressive district both in education and in how we value our children.”
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