SUNBURY, Ohio (WCMH) – A contentious meeting of the Big Walnut school board ended with no decision on a flag ban Thursday night. There were plenty of clashing opinions in the packed room where nine district parents took the microphone for public comment.
“They need to be focusing on things that actually affect the day to day lives of the students in the district. The growth that we know is coming, the issues with bussing that pretty much all districts face, issues such as teacher retention, things like that,” said Molly Snodgrass, a district parent.
The most addressed item was resolution 12.6 ‘Limiting display of flags, banners, signs, and symbols in the classroom.’ The resolution would ban any flag, symbol, banner, or sign displayed “in classrooms or school buildings” that “promote activist causes, or are otherwise deemed controversial, shall not be displayed in classrooms or school buildings.”
“It is not something that our school needs to be focusing on right now. There’s a huge need to support all of our students. Especially those who identify as LGBTQ and those who don’t even recognize where they identify right now. Supporting all students for acceptance, love, respect, and affirmation,” said another parent Jonna Walker.
The resolution does not name any specific examples of flags that would be banned. It only names the four examples of acceptable flags: “The United States flag, The State of Ohio flag, Military flags, and Flags from other states and other countries.”
School Board President Doug Crowl began the conversation by citing the Supreme Court opinion on Shurtleff v. Boston. After which he concluded that the board can and should restrict what flags fly in the school.
Crowl went on to argue with board member Todd Smith which created a contentious reaction from most of the audience.
“That’s the type of individual we’ve got on our board, charting the future for our students. When I hear those things that are clearly motivated out of a place of fear, that’s scary,” explained Ryan Wynia, parent of three Big Walnut students. “It’s not screaming at anybody. It’s not slapping anybody in the face when they’re walking in the classroom. Most kids don’t even realize that it’s there. If that is part of your personhood and your identity you notice it. And you see and feel like it’s a psychologically safe place.”
Crowl argued that a pride flag would make a child raised in a Christian home feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in a classroom while referring to the rainbow pride flag as a “gay flag.”
There were no parents or supporters of the flag ban that spoke up at the meeting.
“They could’ve sent emails, but they weren’t here to vocalize it. And I think it speaks a lot of good to our community and to our students that we do support them and we will stand up for them no matter what,” Walker said.
The meeting also featured a spirited discussion about a resolution to remove and stand against any mask mandate in the future. The board resolution cites “scientific evidence and guidance” that masks are potentially harmful.
Neither resolution will be voted on until Dec. 14. Board President Crowl said it is board policy to require a second reading for new policy resolutions.