Students, teachers protest policy banning pride flags in Central Bucks School District classrooms

Students protesting at CB West High School
Photo credit Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Students, parents, teachers and community members gathered Friday outside Central Bucks West High School in protest of its policy that restricts what teachers can display inside their classrooms.

Karen Smith, region one Central Bucks school board member, was at the protest and said that policy 321 originally began last spring as an administrative directive, prohibiting employees from taking part in political activities while on the clock or on school property, but evolved into something more.

“It changed and became something … that also not only covered classroom decor, it covered what teachers can wear, it covered what we can talk about in the classroom, and it’s restricting socio-political, social justice type of topics in the classroom,” Smith explained.

The policy, which officially passed last week, bans staff from having things like pride flags, banners, photos and other items displayed that take a side on a political or social issue.

Smith opposes the policy and says you can't teach kids how to think if you're restricting and censoring different topics.

“Obviously, there are complicated topics in our society, but our teachers are professionals, and they are trained how to deal with handling complex topics. And I think – I know I trust our staff to handle those topics.”

Smith said some students have been protesting and attending board meetings about the policy for months, noting some protests took place at Central Bucks South and East High Schools earlier this week.

Brooke Wassman, a senior at Central Bucks West, is against the policy and feels having pride flags or signs present in the classroom shows it is a welcoming environment.

“...The teachers who do have a pride flag up, we feel safe with them. And so that is why we are here to protest,” Wassman said.

“We are here to protest the school board that does not listen to their students, we are here to protest this false narrative they have created that pride flags are political because they are not."

“They are showing love and support for people of a certain community who have been marginalized and beaten down and discriminated against. And that should not be political, because it is harmful and negative and it can create abusive environments.”

Students protesting at CB West High School
Photo credit Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio

Wassman said the policy has been widely regarded as a ban on pride flags because there has been no other political things in school that have been targeted.

Wassman explained that Central Bucks West has Republican and Democratic clubs where they have to talk about politics and government. That has not been restricted, but the pride flag has.

“We have been told that it is political and harmful to students and teachers,” Wassman said.

CJ Weintraub, a senior at Central Bucks West who helped organize the protest, has attended some of the school board meetings discussing the policy and said she feels misunderstood and overlooked.

student holding pride flag
Photo credit Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio

"I feel like they're trying so hard not to understand because I go to the school board meetings and I see them sitting there at their desks without any kind of facial expression or eye contact and I just wonder, like, are you even listening? Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Weintraub noted that a lot of people are upset and heartbroken about the policy.

“So many people have talked to me about how sad it makes them feel and how just genuinely upsetting it is that queer students aren't seen as much of a priority as people who aren't queer. And that doesn't mean that we want to overstep other students, but there's enough space for us all.”

Weintraub said the protest is a statement they are going to continue to be persistent, not give up and still support each other.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio