De Pere school flag policy draws controversy

The board considered a proposal restricting which flags could be displayed on school property
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 9:59 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2023 at 5:48 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - Monday evening’s Unified School District of De Pere board meeting drew a packed crowd on a night that was supposed to have a vote on policy regarding displaying flags.

As initially written, the policy would’ve required the board of education to approve all flags being displayed anywhere on school property, including inside classrooms.

Superintendent Chris Thompson first introduced the policy July 17, with the goal of determining what was being displayed in schools and if it was appropriate.

That wording upset many people and ignited controversy in the De Pere community over inclusivity. The problem for others was they felt the board would be taking away students’ and teachers’ freedom of expression.

“The Pride flag, especially in a youth population, can help reduce suicide rates. LGBT youth are at risk of suicide more than 40 percent compared to their straight peers,” one speaker told the board.

“We are here to educate our children. To me this is starting to indoctrinate our children, and that is not what you are here for,” another said.

Some argued flags like the U.S. flag and state flag are inclusive. Others disagreed.

“I’m supporting you guys in hopes that you will understand that the flag is what we stand for and we are Wisconsinites. If we add a bunch of splinter group flags, I’m not for that at all,” said one speaker.

“The American flag truly has not historically represented LGBTQ folks, because they have been marginalized and oppressed in this country since its very founding,” said another.

Members of the board say the wording of the policy could have been better, saying they never intended to impact a student or teacher’s expression.

“What I was looking for I think was more detailed understanding of you know allowing sports flags and international flags and history flags and supporting clubs and groups like that and making sure you know that kids did feel included,” Vice President of the United School District of De Pere Chad Jeskewitz said.

The policy is now broken into two parts, approving the flags that fly outside school buildings. Those are the United States flag, the Wisconsin state flag, the municipal flag where the school is located, the flag representing the school district, and POW/MIA flags representing U.S. military prisoners of war and servicemembers missing in action.

Discussion of what can be displayed within the schools and classrooms has been tabled to reword the policy to only apply to flags outside.

The policy will come back at a future board meeting.

The De Pere board meeting drew a packed crowd on a night that was supposed to have a vote on policy regarding displaying flags.