San Mateo Union High School District officials are preparing to reverse course on a decision last week to not fly the rainbow flag over school properties in recognition of LGBTQ+ Pride Month.
Trustee Greg Land, who was absent from a May 20 meeting when school board members deadlocked on the proposal to fly the flag at campuses and district office, called to host a special meeting in early June when he can vote.
For his part, Land said he supports the proposal to raise the flag to show solidarity with students in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning community, and also as a signal of the district’s commitment to diversity and equity.
“I think we sent the wrong message here to our students and I really want to support our students and I think it is really important that we reconsider this,” he told the Daily Journal.
Land sent an email to the district’s administrative cabinet calling for a special board meeting that will allow him to be the swing vote on the issue, because he departed from the May session early to tend to personal matters.
Since then he has also discussed the issue with board President Bob Griffin, and expects that the emergency meeting will be held Friday, June 4. Land anticipated that the agenda for the meeting will be light, and that the flag proposal could be the only issue discussed.
The maneuver follows the board voting 2-2, with trustees Linda Lees Dwyer and Ligia Andrade Zuniga supporting and Griffin as well as Vice President Peter Hanley opposing, on the proposal to raise the flag last week. The board concurrently unanimously voted in favor of a ceremonial proclamation supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
Griffin and Hanley favored the board’s approach because they felt proclamations are typically the vehicle used by the district to formally show appreciation or recognition. As well, they feared that raising the flag would establish a slippery slope, and that officials could set a challenging precedent.
“I don’t want to go down that road of having different flags all the time. I just think it makes our lives too complicated. Once you say yes to one group, it’s hard to say no to other groups,” Hanley said during the meeting.
Griffin concurred, and suggested that raising the flag opens the door to those with other political or religious affiliations seeking similar recognition from the district. To limit that threat, he said the school system should continue solely flying the U.S. and California flags.
Lees Dwyer and Andrade Zuniga contended otherwise, and said raising the pride flag would demonstrate the district’s support for potentially vulnerable students and members of the school community.
What’s more, Lees Dwyer questioned the value of approving the proclamation if the district wasn’t willing to take a more visible and public stance in support.
Regarding the policy precedent, Land said he believes the district should resolve to only fly flags recognized by the National Archives, which is the federal organization that sets the monthly calendar for cultural observation.
Land, who is an elementary principal in Los Altos, said he uses a similar criteria at his school when determining which flags will be raised. Additionally, the policy can be referred to if the district is approached to raise the flag of another group or organization.
“These are the things as educators we should celebrate because it provides that inclusivity that we are fighting for,” he said.
To that end, Land said he made a similar declaration during the early portion of the May 20 meeting that he attended and expected that sentiment would be carried through to later discussions on the agenda.
But reflecting on the outcome of the vote, Land said he regretted not being present to swing the matter.
“I wish I was there,” he said.