The Duneland School Corp. is addressing the concerns of the LBGTQ community and their supporters about the removal of pride flags from classrooms.
During Monday night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Chip Pettit said he’s met with individuals and with groups following an April 12 protest of pride flags ordered taken down from three classrooms at Chesterton Middle School.
“We all want the same things: the same inclusive learning environment where everyone is respected and diversity is appreciated,” he said.
Pettit said an acceptance, inclusion and diversity club has been created at the middle school to make new friends and have fun while feeling accepted.
Middle school students also heard presentations during health and physical education class about things like acceptance and the importance of reporting bullying and reaching out for help.
Pettit said a tip line also was created to inform administrators about any safety issues and concerns regarding emotional and social well-being of students. He said a box also was placed in a hallway near the cafeteria for students to leave anonymous notes about any issues.
Pettit said a safe area is also being established at the middle school for all students to go to for safety and reflection.
The middle school is also hosting an anti-bullying poster competition and reminding students there are counselors, a school resource officer and social and learning specialists they can turn to at the school.
Pettit said there are also talks of putting up signs promoting unity and inclusion.
According to school officials, the flags were removed following complaints from parents and students about symbols conflicting with their personal and political beliefs.
School officials also said the flags were not directly related to the curriculum in the classrooms where they were on display and caused disruption to the learning environment.
Meaghan Bailey, of Valparaiso, was among the supporters of the LBGTQ community at the meeting.
Bailey said she showed up as an ally of people who identify as LGBTQ and it seemed like the administration was moving in the right direction.
However, she was disappointed there was no mention of returning the flags.
Bailey said the flags are a way of informing students who they can turn to with an issue related to their gender identity without fear of being ridiculed.
“Nobody is holding up the flag and trying to convert anybody. We’re not trying to force anything on anybody," she said. "We just need people to know where there are safe places, especially in this age group where bullying is constant.”
Bailey also said she hopes the administration is serious about the newly unveiled plans.
“I really feel like they’re just trying to get through these last few weeks of school and maybe even hoping through the summer people will forget about it,” she said.