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DAILY PRESS & ARGUS — Taking flags down was the right move

June 23, 2006

“Doug Norton, the Howell teacher who donated the (‘gay pride’) rainbow flag to the Diversity Club…said it is ‘sad when an outside group’ uses student activities ‘to pursue their own social or political agenda.’ But that ignores the fact that not all within the Howell school community seemed open to divergent views. The Traditional Values Club did not get the same positive reception as did the Diversity Club. A teacher placed a ‘hate’ bumper sticker below the Traditional Values Club’s flag. That seemed to support the LOVE group’s feeling that the ideal of tolerance for diverse ideas was limited to the ‘right’ groups.”


DAILY PRESS & ARGUS
Howell, Michigan
June 21, 2006

(Editorial)

Taking flags down was the right move

It was time for the flags to come down at Howell High School. Rather than becoming symbols for diversity, they had become distractions.

As it is, the reasoning behind the decision to remove the flags remains murky.

School officials say it was a decision reached by the high school faculty. Yet less than a month ago, school officials denied rumors that the flags were coming down.

The issue now involves two flags. One was the rainbow-design diversity flag, which sparked a protest for 18 months by some community members who thought it promoted homosexuality. Then there was the more recent appearance of the Traditional Values Club’s flag, which was intended to counter the diversity flag and which purposely used a Christian theme in its design.

So what is the message sent by removing the flags? That depends on who is talking.

Vicki Fyke, a member of the LOVE citizens group most opposed to the diversity flag, said she was happy the flag is coming down, but “sorry it took so long. It’s taken our school through some pretty ugly press.”

Some might argue that it was because of people like Fyke and LOVE that the schools got so much unwanted publicity.

That seems to be the attitude of Doug Norton, the Howell teacher who donated the rainbow flag to the Diversity Club. Although he says understands the reason for removing the flag, Norton said it is “sad when an outside group” uses student activities “to pursue their own social or political agenda.”

But that ignores the fact that not all within the Howell school community seemed open to divergent views. The Traditional Values Club did not get the same positive reception as did the Diversity Club. A teacher placed a “hate” bumper sticker below the Traditional Values Club’s flag. That seemed to support the LOVE group’s feeling that the ideal of tolerance for diverse ideas was limited to the “right” groups.

And that seems like a good place for the school district to begin when classes resume next fall. The concepts embraced by the school’s Diversity Club — embracing diversity and accepting those who seem to be different from you — are still valid. But these high-minded ideals are sometimes hard to live by.

That challenge can be an opportunity for Howell schools, which still is the only Livingston County school district to adopt a diversity resolution. That’s commendable, but it takes more than a resolution to insure that students of all types know that they are safe and valued in Howell schools.

The district will do well to explore the flag flap to find more teachable lessons — for teachers, students and administrators — to explain the true meaning and value of diversity.

Those who opposed the diversity flag should only find victory in the sense that their opinions deserved a hearing. The removal of the flag should not be seen as support for an anti-gay statement.

This flag issue and all the controversy around it have been distracting to a district that is trying to balance its budget, open a new high school and educate the community’s youth.

On that last matter, the value and meaning of diversity are legitimate topics for a well-rounded public education. As such, the school district should not back down on its commitment to diversity.

http://www.livingstondaily.com

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