'Sense of disappointment:' Students, parents express concern after Kettle Moraine School Board bans use of Pride flags, pronouns by district staff

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WALES, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Pride flags and pronouns have created a lightning rod of attention and concern in the Kettle Moraine School District after the district board upheld its decision to prohibit the use of displays of support for the LGBTQ community -- as well as other things -- among district staff.

During previous meetings, the school board focused on district employee policy that says staff cannot use their positions to promote partisan politics, sectarian religious views or promote themselves for monetary or nonmonetary gain.

The board interpreted the policy to mean the display of things like Pride flags were not allowed in classrooms as well as the use of pronouns in staff email signatures.

The issue culminated during an emotional board meeting Tuesday night, where the majority of speakers during public comment spoke against the policy.

"Pride flags are not me taking a political stance, they are a statement saying I accept myself and others," one student said during public comment. "Pronouns are not inappropriate or unprofessional, they are simply just stating what we are."

Some district residents expressed support for the prohibition.

"The vast majority of us demand that our schools focus on teaching our kids and not on bringing divisive, politically charged issues into the classroom," Daniel C. of Delafield said Tuesday night.

District leaders defended the policy saying it does not single out Pride flags.

"We made it clear last night this also applies to things like blue line flags or Trump MAGA hats," School Board President Gary Vose told CBS 58 in a phone interview.

Vose added the policy is meant to lessen division among staff.

"To have some staff members having pride flags and others don't, could certainly send a mixed message to students as well," Vose said.

Students are concerned about the policy's impact on LGBTQ peers.

"Just an overall sense of disappointment," Noor Salameh, a senior at Kettle Moraine High School for Arts & Performance and the head of the high school's Unity Club.

But the students are now getting support from local businesses in the form of funds from the sale of Pride yard signs.

"This is a great way to get our message out," Salameh said. "It's really rewarding and at the meeting last night the amount of support it was great to see."

The signs are produced by Hartland-based Avalon Graphics,  whose owner is the father of a transgender alum of Kettle Moraine High School who recently graduated.

"Students aren't locked out of doing things like this so let's put them in charge and let them handle this themselves," Avalon Graphics owner Bob Wisniewski said.

ElleBelle Salon, which is situated across the street from Kettle Moraine High School, will serve as a distributor of the signs.

"We're a welcoming place, we're a loving place," said Alex Langerder, the owner of the salon and an openly gay man.

"We want to do this because we want to be a hub, we want to be a source of inspiration and source of love and a source of support," Sara Leuwerke, a hair stylist and mother of a gay student of the district, told CBS 58.

The Pride yard signs are sold for $20 with 80 percent of proceeds from the sale of the signs going to the Unity Club. People interested in the signs can purchase them at ElleBelle Salon at 200 W. Summit Ave. in Wales.

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