BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – “Just simply removing those flags from the classroom perpetuates the stigma that a marginalized community already has to deal with.”
The report out of Woodrow Wilson High School has raised concerns around the LGBTQ community. Allegedly, parents of non-LGBTQ students called the school’s principal regarding representation flags hanging in classrooms and asked that those flags be taken down.
“It’s not a political issue. Being LGBTQ is across the political spectrum, in every single political party,” said Beckley Human Rights Commission Member Danielle Stewart. “It was made into something that it wasn’t. They needed to be informed that they were, in effect, aiding somebody else’s political agenda.”
One of the major concerns among the LGBTQ community is the mentality of younger members still in the process of discovering their identity. An action such as removing flags from a public school classroom can hurt that mentality on multiple levels.
“They deal with bullying and harassment, whether it’s physical or verbal, on a daily basis,” said Beckley Pride President Christina Baisden. “They’re looking for signs of inclusion. The rainbow flag is a symbolization of that inclusion and to make students feel more welcome and to be able to be themselves.”
Stewart and Baisden both believe that this isn’t an issue with the school, or even with the county. The area of concern goes higher than that, with those who are unwilling to support equal representation and as a result shift their agenda to convey that.
“I don’t necessarily blame the principal or the Board of Education for this particular incident because it’s very challenging to manage all of the diversity in a school,” Stewart said. “But the point is that this is not a political thing. Somebody else had made it a political thing. Because the school’s enforcing it, they’re now enforcing that person’s political belief instead of just accepting everybody.”
This matters hits especially close to home for Baisden. She worked to set up the school’s current Gay Straight Alliance and mentored its current president. Her children graduated from Woodrow Wilson in 2016 and 2018 and she knows what a difference it makes to feel accepted versus isolated.
“I can only imagine what the difference in their lives it would have made if that GSA existed,” Baisden said. “They had so many issues with depression, even from an accepting home. I can only imagine what these students feel like when they don’t have that same acceptance at home.”
That acceptance, respect and love is what is being asked for at Woodrow Wilson, in Raleigh County and throughout West Virginia.
The Raleigh County Board of Education denied a request for an on-camera interview for this story.