‘My existence is not political’: Students and parents debate pride flags in Logan schools

No decisions made yet about whether to ban pride flags in Logan public schools

(Rick Egan | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) The pride flag flies over City Hall, on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. Students and parents recently spoke at a meeting of the Logan School District's Board of Education, to discuss whether or not to ban pride flags from public schools in that northern Utah city.

This story is jointly published by nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune, in collaboration with Utah State University’s The Statesman, to elevate diverse perspectives in local media through student journalism.

A rainbow flag, posted alongside the words “safe space,” outside an elementary classroom in Logan stirred debate recently between parents and advocates at the city’s school district Board of Education meeting.

During the public comment portion of the Sept. 13 meeting, community members gathered to discuss banning pride flags from elementary schools in the Northern Utah community. No action was taken over the flags at the meeting, and the subject was not on the agenda at the board’s Sept. 27 or Oct. 11 meetings.

Andrea Sinfield, who spoke on behalf of a group of parents from the Hillcrest and Adams area, said the flag on the door of her daughter’s kindergarten classroom raised questions about what she was ready – and not ready – to discuss with her child.

“Seeing the flag in such a prominent place in my five-year-old’s learning area has caused me alarm, because neither I nor my child are ready to explain the complex ideas behind this symbol,” Sinfield said.

Sinfield expressed her concerns by bringing an easel and several pictures her child had drawn, all of which included rainbows. Before her daughter saw the pride flag at school, Sinfield said, she would color rainbows in arches. Now, she said, her daughter’s rainbows are drawn in stripes and include black and brown — colors added to the “Progress Pride Flag,” representing marginalized LGBTQ+ communities of color.

“She is subconsciously repeating what she is seeing, not even knowing what the symbol means,” Sinfield said.

Amy Wiser, a parent from Logan’s Hillcrest and Adams neighborhoods, said she believes schools should be a safe zone for students where their values aren’t challenged. The flag representing LGBTQ+ pride, she said, creates a non-neutral space in the classroom.

“What if I was in a white supremacy group, and I put my white supremacy flag up in the school — how would that make some of the kids feel?” Wiser asked.

Jay Bates Domenech, a senior at Logan High School and president of the Gay Straight Alliance club, spoke early in the meeting, trying to distance the flag from politics. Seeing a pride flag outside a teacher’s classroom, Domenech said, helped them feel safe enough to come out.

“I know it can be seen as a political issue, but my existence is not political,” they said. “I’m here, I’m queer. The simple use of a pride flag is not something that is going to affect anyone negatively.”

Amy Anderson, a Logan High School counselor, expressed a similar view. “The rainbow flag is not a Democrat flag, it’s not an independent flag, it’s not a Republican flag. A rainbow flag is not a political statement,” she said.

In the current political climate, Anderson said, queer students often don’t feel supported. “They don’t feel safe — physically or emotionally — to be able to come to school,” she said. “Our rainbow flag helps an [LGBTQ+] student know who is safe.”

Mary Morgan, a special education teacher at Logan High, said the flag relates more to identity than conflicting values. “If you ban the pride flag, that’s basically taking away someone’s identity and not allowing them some representation,” Morgan said.

After the meeting, Sinfield said she was concerned that she had come across as non-inclusive in her statement. She said she had intended to introduce another neutral program focused on inclusivity, but the time limit for public comment prevented her from doing so.

“I don’t know what it would look like, but coming up with something that’s unique to us to make sure that kids are taught inclusion — because that’s the problem, is that people in this group might feel left out, and I don’t want anyone to feel left out,” Sinfield said.

Shana Longhurst, district director of communications and public relations, said it is likely the board will “take their time” before making any decision regarding pride flags.

“We need to respect both sides of the issue, when it comes to these symbols in classrooms,” Longhurst said. “It takes time to talk to each side of the fence on that one, because there are strong, personal experiences that are relevant and important to each group.”

Kris Carpenter wrote this story as a journalism student at Utah State University. It is published as part of a new collaborative including nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune.