Politics

NJ students protest new policy that bans LGBTQ flag from being flown at public schools

Passaic students took to the streets on Monday to protest a new Board of Education policy that bans them from raising the LGBTQ+ Pride banner, something they were able to do last year.

About 40 students, some wearing the rainbow flag and others wrapped in blankets, marched in the cold to demand the board reverse its policy that allows only the American flag, the state flag and the school flag to be flown.

Students stood in front of the city’s three public high schools urging their classmates to join them on the sidewalk. They continued the protest at the board meeting on Monday night. “It should not have come to this,” Roxanna Lopez, 14, told the trustees. “Students out of school protesting in cold weather.”

The protest, which is the second demonstration against the board policy this month, began just before 2 p.m. when students gathered on the steps of Passaic PREP. The students then marched next door to Passaic Academy for Science and Engineering, then three blocks to Passaic High School, as the march grew to about 75 students.

“Walk out! Walk out!” the demonstrators chanted. Many of their classmates stood at windows, offering a thumbs up, but only a handful joined the march.

“Raise our flag! Raise our flag!” the students chanted, as Passaic police and school security provided an escort to ensure safety. The demonstrators stayed on the sidewalk as they made their way to City Hall and the board of education building downtown.

“We’re not going to stop until we get what we want,” said Amari Gawthney, who grabbed a bullhorn and led the demonstrators on the march to City Hall. “We put up the flag last year with no problem. Then this new policy came from out of the blue, and they pushed it under the rug, actually.”

Camila Perez, a freshman in Passaic, wore a rainbow flag as she spoke before trustees at a school board meeting last week. Perez argued the blanket ban is “unfair” and “discriminates” against the queer community. “It bothers me, and it bothers the whole community,” Perez said. 

The students at the protest called on the school board to rescind the policy and allow them to fly the LGBTQ+ flag in time for Pride Month, just two months from now. 

Jaylie Barrett, a senior at Passaic PREP, argued the board “disrespected us as a community” and “won’t tell us why” they changed the policy. 

Board President Christina Schratz would not predict the outcome, but would only say that the the board “will continue the conversation about the policy.” She added, “I’m all for seeing what we can do as a district. I am very grateful that they express their concerns. This is the way democracy works.”

ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH 

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: NJ.COM

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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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