american flags pride flag
© AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
American flags and a pride flag hang from the White House before a Pride Month celebration on the South Lawn, Saturday, June 10, 2023, in Washington.
Parents and teachers claimed the policy is a backdoor attempt to remove Pride flags.

Parents and staff are claiming a California school district is targeting LGBTQ Pride flags after the board voted to forbid the display of banners other than the American or California state flags.

Trustees representing the Sunol Glen School Unified School District in the East Bay, which serves 270 K-8 students, engaged in a tense exchange with attendees at a Tuesday meeting.

"The symbol of the flag solidifies that message," Sunol Glen Superintendent and Principal Molleen Barnes said during Tuesday's meeting. "Tonight, with this resolution, our board members have been clear where they stand."

Barnes also noted that the school has previously displayed Pride flags to remind LGBTQ students and families they "are a place of equity and inclusivity."

"When a school starts endorsing any single particular point of view, that can be divisive," Board President Ryan Jergensen said when asked to explain the proposed policy. "The school should be inclusive of all. Individual views are irrelevant. I prefer to seek more for what unites us as a school."

One hundred fifty community members, many of whom came holding rainbow boas and handheld Pride flags, were removed from the school cafeteria by Jergensen after a public comment period around 9 p.m.

The board passed the measure 2-1 a half hour later.

Parents, teachers, students and one board member who voted against the new policy noted the policy was announced soon after a Pride flag was hung atop a pole in front of the school in June 2022.

They also criticized the school for what they described as examples of other "anti-LGBTQ" policies, including a defunct resolution requiring teachers and counselors to notify parents if their children were using names or pronouns separate from their biological sex.

At least five California school districts have passed parental notification policies requiring schools to alert parents if students use a different name or pronoun.

"Someone said yesterday we are a canary in the coal mine in the Bay Area because it seems so bizarre it would happen here," Sunol Glen parent Joel Souza said before the meeting. "But how many canaries and how many coal mines do we need at this point? This is happening right under our noses."

While the new policy does not explicitly mention the Pride flag, Souza, a filmmaker who most recently worked on "Rust" with Alex Baldwin, was unconvinced.

"It's a fantastic little school, like this oasis in the Bay Area," Souza said. "It's a very, very accepting place. It felt very safe and protected. But there are clouds on the horizon and that's very unfortunate. This is just an obviously backdoor attempt to ban the Pride flag and everything the flag represents."

Some parents were frustrated that only Sunol residents could vote in people to the Board of Trustees. Only a quarter of the families enrolled at the school reside within the town, while the rest commute from other parts of East Bay.

But parent Diana Rohini LaVigne said the requirements for voting have rarely been challenged or criticized in the past.

"Sunol Glen is a tiny school; it's really, really small. But this could be precedent-setting," LaVigne said. "Folks around us - Livermore, Pleasanton, Hayward, Fremont - they're all looking at us as an example of what could happen," she added.

In late August, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a lawsuit against the Chino Valley Unified School District [CVUSD] Board of Education "to immediately halt the enforcement" of their mandatory gender identity disclosure policy.

Amid controversy surrounding transgender policies and Pride flags, The California Assembly passed a resolution to recognize August as Transgender History Month, making the Golden State the first in the nation to take the progressive plunge.