AUBURN, Ala. — A group of Auburn students and parents are requesting an Auburn High School teacher not post a gay pride flag in their classroom.
News 3 was sent a copy of the letter addressed to the principal. It reads in part:
“The flag creates a hostile and provocative learning environment for students not comfortable openly supporting the LGBTQ Community.” The letter continues, “It’s unprofessional for the teachers to openly display their political views in an unbiased and socially neutral public setting– creating a hostile and uncomfortable learning environment.”
This week, the school held a fair for students to see all of the clubs and organizations at the school. One of the club’s, the E.D.U.C.A.T.E Club, which promotes inclusiveness and diversity had the flag as part of its display.
Auburn City Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen DeLano said as of noon on Friday, the school’s principal, Dr. Shannon Pignato had not been presented the petition, but now she is aware of it, and the matter is being handled internally.
Meanwhile, a Change.org counterpetition against the removal of the pride flag has been posted.
Brandon Sinniger, an Auburn High School student started the petition. He said he saw the original petition asking the flag be removed Friday morning. Sinniger, who is involved with the LGBTQ in school and in the community, saw the need to start a counterpetition showing support community for the teacher, flag and the idea behind them. He said he wrote the petition while driving with his girlfriend to school.
The response from the community here in Auburn, as well as signatures from all over the country has left me completely breathless,” Sinniger said. “The takeaway for me is not whether or not the flag stays up or is taken down. For me, it is extremely important that more than a thousand people were able to come together in solidarity for our LGBT community, here in our high school. The message that sends is stronger than keeping a flag hanging in a classroom window.
Daisy Griffin was one of the many who signed the counterpetition feels it is important there is a safe space for the LGBTQ youth.
“Just yesterday, my daughter, who is at Auburn High School, was telling me how she had seen the flag and how excited she was,” Griffin said. “She joined the E.D.U.C.A.T.E Club and other clubs. I was very happy, very pleased that Auburn High School was creating these safe spaces and allowing for representation.”
We spoke with another parent who wished the flag be taken down, not because they are against the LGBTQ community, but because they feel schools should be neutral.
Friday afternoon, News Three met with Superintendent DeLano who offered the following statement:
“It has been brought to the attention of Auburn City Schools and Auburn High School that a petition from a group of anonymous students and parents was sent to Dr. Shannon Pignato, the principal of Auburn High School. As of noon, she had not been presented with that petition. She is aware of the situation though and is working with staff and students to address those concerns. Auburn High School is certainly a reflection of the Auburn community, hence societal issues are brought to our campuses. It is our mission to ensure each student embraces and achieves his or her unique intellectual gifts and personal aspirations while advancing the community through a school system distinguished by compassion for others, symbiotic relationships with an engaged community, the creation and sharing of knowledge, inspired learners with global perspectives and the courage to determine our future. In our country today, people are often seen addressing their objections through violence and hate. It is my sincere desire to assist our students in learning to address their opinions and their values in a calm and respectful manner. This differing of opinions related to the E.D.U.C.A.T.E Club at Auburn High School affords our faculty and students an opportunity to learn and model a civil manner in which to resolve our differences.”
Superintendent DeLano added when she first heard about the matter, two thoughts came to mind. The first was how the school system can address the situation and how she can support the principal, students, faculty and staff in working through the issue. She also wanted to know who the individuals behind the petition were so the school system can talk with them and learn more.
“As I have worked with the faculty with this experience today, we want to see if the kids that are discussing this can come together and decide how do we want to handle this?” Superintendent DeLano said. “To me, that is what is the most appropriate action.”
She went onto add, “As a school system, we are obliged to enforce federal and state regulations and laws, and we do have freedom of speech. We are looking at this matter from all aspects and would hope that everybody would handle this in a manner that we can deal with it in a way that we can move on and have orderly classroom learning going on.”