The school superintendent in Paso Robles, California left many outraged by their response to an incident in which students stole a teacher's LGBTQ+ Pride flag and then posted video of them defecating on it to TikTok.
Rather than punish the students involved, Superintendent Curt Dubost announced a district-wide ban on large flags on school grounds, calling flags a "politicized issue."
Students have organized a community forum and protest in response to what many have called a cowardly and anti-LGBTQ+ response to the incident.
Last month, two students walked into chemistry teacher Evan Holtz's classroom, ripped down his Pride flag in front of him and fled.
Holtz tried to chase them down, but lost them in the crowded hallway. Shortly thereafter, a video was posted to TikTok showing Holtz's flag shoved into a toilet, where one of the students defecated on it.
Holtz told the San Luis Obispo Tribune he had displayed the flag so LGBTQ+ students in his class would feel safe and welcome.
Colleague Geoffrey Land told the Tribune the incident was a direct affront to that spirit.
"It was definitely an act of hate directed at the LGBTQ+ community. And a lot of students...felt that attack very acutely."
Students at the school agree.
Five of them wrote a letter to the Tribune on National Coming Out Day, October 11, explaining how the incident made them feel.
"The attack on the flag was an attack on our security as students, and deserved a firm condemnation."
But instead of addressing the problem and reprimanding the students involved, Dubost has chosen to stay ideologically neutral.
Disregarding LGBTQ+ students' feeling threatened by the incident, he banned flags larger than 2 feet by 2 feet to avoid a "slippery slope."
As he put it to the Tribune:
"We don't want to turn it into a politicized issue where a student enters a classroom and looks up, 'Oh, there's a rainbow flag here, or there's a blue lives matter flag here — that determines what the partisanship is of my teacher.' We think that that's a real slippery slope."
"And so we continue to believe that this is a very reasonable compromise solution that allows rainbows, but within reason."
The students characterized the move as a de facto ban on Pride flags placing the onus for rectifying an act of aggression onto the victims.
"As the standard flag size is 3' x 5', the school purposefully banned the very flag that was desecrated. What message does this send to students?"
"The flag ban means the school has allowed the haters to win, while LGBTQ+ students feel punished for wanting to be seen and supported."
On social media, Dubost's response to the incident left many outraged.
Dubost has not responded to the backlash as of this writing.