Flags have become more common in the last several years. There’s a flag for everything – every sexuality, every ideology or political party, even most clubs or groups have a flag. However, across the USA, many school districts have begun banning specific flags. These flags mainly include the Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Pride flags.
Recently, our school committee has been considering creating a policy that would effectively ‘ban’ all flags but the country and state flag. All others would have to go through an approval process in the school committee. This stirred up lots of anxiety about whether or not the BLM and Pride flags around the school would come down. When asked about whether they had any knowledge of this, many students were unaware, save for the fact that a few texts went around about it.
How does the student body truly feel about this rule? I interviewed several students and received multiple
statements. One student explains, “The flags we put in school represent us as students and as people. Don’t take away our right to that.” On the other side, others say there simply shouldn’t be any in communal spaces. A separate student said, “Teachers should also be allowed to decorate their classes the way they want, but in the cafe and the halls there shouldn’t be any.” The student body seems to mainly agree on one thing: we are entitled to a part in the making of this policy.
Weighing the pros and cons of this issue is a trouble many of us face. On the pro-rule side, there’s the fact that students may feel ‘pressure’ to think one way or another due to the presence of these flags. However, the argument can be made that the students rarely ever notice the flags at all and when they do it’s in a positive way.
On the anti-rule side, some believe this is a violation of First Amendment rights, as it is protected by the Tinker Test, which is a set of rules schools use to limit what students can and cannot do at school in terms of free speech. The Tinker Test specifically states that “school officials could not prohibit [students’ free speech] only on the suspicion that the speech might disrupt the learning environment” (uscourts.gov). On the opposing side, some might refute this argument by saying that a “political agenda” is not free speech. This brings us once again back to the Tinker v. Des Moines case of the 1960s (the origin of the ‘Tinker Test’), where the dissent argued the same thing. It is a strange parallel to be drawn, but a parallel shockingly relevant, nonetheless.
Each person is entitled to their opinion on the flag situation. As this is not an opinion article, I will not be
sharing my own take on the situation. However, I will emphasize that many students argue that this decision should not be made without the input of the public. In the coming weeks, the people who make up Marblehead schools may be able to debate the issue and make their decision, instead of watching as the School Committee makes it for them.
This article was written by an anonymous member of the Headlight staff.
MHS Headlight Staff
The Headlight is the official newspaper of Marblehead High School. Pieces are posted in the Marblehead Current with permission.