During a Raleigh County Board of Education (RCBOE) meeting held Tuesday evening at 105 Adair Street, several members of the community approached the board regarding two Pride flags that were removed from two Woodrow Wilson High School classrooms in October.
According to an email sent from WWHS, the flags were taken down because they were making a political statement.
Richard Snuffer II, a member of the RCBOE, stated the board was not informed that they were being approached by members of the community until the night of the meeting. Because the issue was not on the agenda, the board was not able to address the flag removal but listened to the community’s comments.
The speakers were each allotted five minutes to address the board.
First to the podium was Christina Baisden, President of Beckley Pride and Vice President of the West Virginia Gay and Lesbian Community Center, followed by Chair of the City of Beckley Human Rights Commission, Danielle Stewart and Fayette County teacher and WWHS alumna, Alex Yurick.
Each individual advocated for the flags, stating that they should be placed back in the classrooms as a way to support the county’s LGTBQ youth.
“These young adults should never have to question whether they belong or not because they do, and we need to show them that they do,” Baisden said.
“I am asking for the wellbeing and mental health of our LGTBQ youth, those we know and those we have yet to meet, that the flags be allowed to be hung back in classrooms without delay or further debate.”
Stewart said that the removal of the flags was nothing more than an “action to suppress something that is different than what someone displays as normal,” and Yurick stated that the removal not only goes against several Constitutional Amendments but also Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance.
Following the meeting, Lootpress spoke to Snuffer, who said the board was not aware of the flags being displayed or removed at WWHS.
“We don’t micromanage our principals. They can do things like that, but we have to be careful,” he said. “The last thing we want to do, the last thing any administrator of Raleigh County wants to do, is discriminate against a child. We don’t want to discriminate; we don’t want to put a child at risk. We want to make sure everyone’s rights are protected.”
According to Snuffer, the county’s superintendent will investigate the issue and speak to WWHS’s principal. The board will also be corresponding with its legal team to make sure they are on solid ground, no matter their decision.
“The law is pretty specific. If we allow one flag, we have to allow all flags. We just want to make sure that everybody is covered. We want the students to understand that this wasn’t specifically targeted to them. We want to make sure all children feel protected and safe no matter what.”
Snuffer says if the issue makes it onto the agenda, the board will discuss the flag removal at the next meeting on Dec. 22.