BURLINGTON, Mass. (CITC) — Middle school students in a Massachusetts school district are being accused of fostering an environment of “intolerance” after protesting various Pride-themed decorations.
Dozens attended Burlington Public Schools’s (BPS) school committee meeting Tuesday to speak out on what they feel was a display of “homophobia” in the district. On June 2, members of Marshall Simonds Middle School’s (MSMS) “Spectrum Club” celebrated a pre-approved Pride-themed day by hanging rainbow decorations around the school and distributing rainbow stickers to their classmates.
However, BPS says other students expressed opposition later that same day by “damaging” the various decorations. The students also reportedly walked through the hallways of MSMS chanting “U.S.A. are my pronouns” while donning red, white and blue clothing and face paint.
The students "reportedly tore down Pride banners" and "glared down students and teachers supporting Pride," according to Boston.com.
We recognize that intolerance can manifest in many different ways, and unfortunately our school community experienced intolerance during the school day on Friday,” BPS Superintendent Eric M. Conti said in response. “Like any spirit day celebration at MSMS, participation is optional. Respectful behavior across the entire student body, however, is non-negotiable.”
Several parents echoed Conti’s remarks to the BPS school committee Tuesday, calling the students’ actions “disturbing.”
While some might say these disruptions were not intended to denigrate or diminish the experiences of queer individuals within the school, this was the impact all the same,” one mother and teacher said. “As an educator, I know how difficult it is to repair that harm once it’s been done.”
Others stressed the need for compassion for all SMSM students involved. One mother told the BPS school committee that the students were wearing red, white and blue clothing for a school activity, and she feels that the matter is being inflated.
What happened, don’t get me wrong, it was very unfortunate, it is unacceptable,” the mother said. “But we also need to understand that these are 12, 13, 14-year-old kids that have gone through so much the past three years.”
BPS leadership has stated that it is “taking a stand” against “identity-directed hateful actions,” and teachers throughout the district are being asked to continue providing lessons and resources on identifying “bigotry and discrimination.”
However, several members of the community told the BPS school committee Tuesday that students have long felt "unsafe" in the district. A former BPS student claimed that the events of June 2 were not a “one-off incident.”
Hearing homophobic language is a casual occurrence,” Nate Carey told the BPS school committee. “Showing support for the LGBTQ community is essential, especially for young people to feel accepted as they grow.”
Crisis in the Classroom (CITC) reached out to BPS for comment on the concerns raised Tuesday, but did not receive a response prior to publication. This story will be updated if a response is received.