BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Carroll County board of education on Wednesday night approved a policy banning the display of the rainbow Pride flag in the classroom.

Under the policy, only the Maryland state flag, Carroll County flag, banners for academic achievement, sports tournament banners, pro and college sports team banners, and flags from other countries that are part of a multi-national display “provided that no such flags may be as large or as prominent as the current American flag” are allowed on school property. The board approved the regulation by a vote of 4-1.

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The policy does not impact what students and teachers can wear, according to an attorney for the board.

Board president Kenneth Kiler, who voted in favor, said the presence of Pride flags over the last several years has not stopped LGBTQ students in Carroll County from being bullied.

“Evidently, they didn’t stop that from happening, and I still don’t believe that it stops it from happening,” he said.

Donna Sivigny, another member who approved he policy, said the measure is in line with the board’s decisions to end virtual learning and in-school masking policies, and to alter a COVID-19 quarantine policy that kept too many students out of school. The flag policy moves the district forward and places the emphasis on academic achievement, she said.

“This board is committed to ensuring that all students and staff have a safe and welcoming environment, free from discrimination, harassment and bullying,” she said. “And this new policy, I believe, further helps CCPS achieve a culture of respect, dignity and tolerance for all.”

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Additional professional development could help teachers handle bullying of students and the board could develop a unity statement to address the root cause of the harassment, she said.

After hearing public testimony from parents, students and teachers, Dr. Patricia Dorsey, the only board member to vote “No,” said teachers display the Pride flag to show students they are seen and do have a safe place where they can be heard.

“We want the bullying to stop. The bullying has to stop,” she said. “But I think the big piece, for now, is that we have to see them, we have to acknowledge them.”

Superintendent Steven Lockard, who does not have a vote, agreed with Dorsey.

“I think it is taking a step back to take something away that students recognize as a support, that [they] recognize something they’ve come to know as a safe place,” he said.

Student Representative Emilie Tedeschi also opposed banning Pride flags, noting there’s a “mental health crisis” and students see the display of the flag as a sign of acceptance.

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“We need the flags to symbolize safe spaces,” said Tedeschi, pointing to a 2021 survey from the Trevor Project showing 42% of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered suicide. “They have depression, they have mental illnesses because of the belittlement they constantly face within our schools.”

CBS Baltimore Staff