Members of a Chicago Catholic school’s diversity and inclusion committee have resigned after the school’s leaders announced a policy of neutrality on flying Pride and Black Lives Matter flags.
Over the summer, Vince Krydynski, president of Marian Catholic High School, emailed teachers to establish a neutral classroom policy, meaning that teachers could not put up signs or flags “that align with identity in any way.” This prohibition would include flags for LGBTQ+ Pride, Black Lives Matter, or Blue Lives Matter, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Krydynski decided to implement the policy after some students claimed that they “didn’t feel comfortable in a classroom that displayed the pride flag.” Krydynski aimed to create a neutral environment this school year in order for students to develop their own social opinions, without the influence of teachers. He explained:
“‘We have to give them the point and counter point. If we are truly helping our kids to develop, you have to have the delicate and difficult conversations, whether that deals with race relations, whether that deals with sexual identity, you have to have those conversations and it has to be unpacked by a caring and loving adult.'”
While Krydynski claims that the neutrality policy is not anti-LGBTQ+, many members of the school community believe otherwise. Some alumni of Marian Catholic, Kirstin Bowns and Nicole Williams, are now advocating for a policy repeal, since they believe the policy further marginalizes students. Bowns and Williams were among the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council members who resigned after hearing about the removal of a classroom Pride flag. Bowns, who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, expressed her concerns to the council but was not taken seriously. Bowns stated:
“‘I felt like we were not being listened to at all. Those of us expressing concerns were being shut down and dismissed. It became clear to me that my voice wasn’t going to be heard.'”
Alongside Bowns and William, three other members of the diversity council resigned. The policy ended up being implemented without the approval of the school’s diversity council or board of directors.
Although Krydynski has acknowledged opposition to the neutrality approach, he still believes it is the best initiative for the school. He argued that hanging identity flags or signs may distract students from their studies:
“‘Once we start listing identities, if we fail to include every student’s identities then all of the sudden we’re now impacting, potentially, that child’s learning. Or, if it’s an identity — let’s say you put blue lives matter up — it may impact someone from paying attention to what the teacher is doing because they see something up on a wall that they personally don’t agree with.'”
But for Bowns, hanging a Pride flag would have been “monumental” to her high school experience. After coming out during her junior year, Bowns became part of the school’s Safe Place group, which is for LGBTQ+ students. However, Bowns felt that the school administration was unsupportive of the group, since they were not allowed to openly advertise their club. By now banning the Pride flag, the school is continuing to ostracize LGBTQ+ students.
Especially with such high rates of suicidality and mental health issues in LGBTQ+ youth, Catholic schools should implement policies that support, rather than suppress, queer and trans identities. A neutrality policy is anti-LGBTQ+ because it suggests that LGBTQ+ identities are not worth acknowledging. Going forward, it is necessary that the school understands the implications of its actions, so that policies can align with the Catholic values of love and acceptance.
—Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, November 17, 2022