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Michigan teacher resigns after administration asks staff to remove pride flags in classrooms

Teachers at Three Rivers Middle School were told last week to take down their pride flags because of an "external challenge," believed to be parents' complaints.

THREE RIVERS, Mich. — A Southwest Michigan school district is sticking to its decision to keep pride flags out of the classroom, even after a teacher resigned because of the new rule.

Teachers at Three Rivers Middle School were told on Friday to take down their pride flags because of an "external challenge." Russell Ball, who resigned his position, says staff believes the challenge was complaints from parents.

He took to TikTok after quitting his job and he shared why he made this decision.        

"I wasn't going to be an active participant in the oppression and suppression of an already marginalized group that I'm a part of," Ball says in the video. 

He's bisexual, and he says it was important to him to not back down when administration asked him to remove the flag from his health education classroom. He says he believes in creating a safe and inclusive space for students. 

"With LGBTQIA+ students, having those spaces are harder to come by," Ball says. "Sometimes having an ally or someone in the community that represents them, that shows that representation in the classroom, can make a big difference for students and whether they attend school, whether they stay in school, how their grades are and it can even affect things like suicide rates."

"It's very important for me to provide that for my students to exist authentically," he said.

The school district released a statement to families Wednesday, Nov. 24, noting that there was also a challenge to the school's Gay and Straight Alliance Club. The letter said in part: 

"It was confirmed that the GSA Club is able to continue their activities as long as they continue to follow board policy. In regard to the pride flags that were displayed in the classroom, they were temporarily removed from each classroom until the Board of Education could carefully review this matter and gather additional facts."

Ball says it's not clear to him how the flags or GSA Club could violate any district policy, and he says quitting was his only choice. 

"I definitely think I would've faced disciplinary action, and obviously that'd go in my permanent file," he says. "I imagine because this is a very strong conviction for me, I would've refused to take it down no matter how many times they asked me to, and I would've ended up being terminated from the position."

For now, he's focused on spending time with his family and he's looking forward to a protest that students are planning on Dec. 6 at the school board meeting where administrators say they'll discuss this issue further. 

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