The pride flag will fly above San Mateo Union High School District schools after all, but it wasn’t a simple process to get there.
While the Board of Trustees voted 4-1 on Friday, June 4, to fly the flag, a proposal to do so failed to reach a three-vote majority the week before. That decision caused an immediate uproar among students. Many, including me, were appalled by it.
“I was surprised and disappointed by this decision,” student Nicholas Seyfried said. “I feel like the people who are supposed to represent me only view the symbol of my community as a nuisance.”
It isn’t difficult to see why this student would be upset. Our district has built a platform of diversity, equality and social justice, yet when the time came to remain true to these ideals, the original vote of Board of Trustees didn’t reflect that. A footnote on the minutes of a meeting is not the dramatic change needed for LGBTQ+ youth. Though flying the flag cannot be considered a panacea either, it certainly is a better start than a mere proclamation of shadowed support. Quite literally, it is the bare minimum the board could have done to show its support.
“The not flying the flag isn’t a big deal,” student Liam Pierce said, “it’s the decision not to. It’s the most token of gestures and they still publicly refused. That’s what feels like a slap in the face.”
Not only did the board fail to pass a resolution to fly the flag, but the members voting against it trivialized it. One member said it would create an inappropriate precedent by flying the flag because they would be forced to fly the flags of other groups like sports teams. Comparing the pride flag to sports memorabilia completely ignores the history behind it and all the strength and resilience it represents.
“[The flag is] something that unites everyone under the LGBT+ umbrella” an anonymous student said. “It’s something we can look at and feel safe, knowing that we are not alone in our experiences.”
The flag originated right here in the Bay Area. It was created by Gilbert Baker, a gay activist, in the 1970s. Baker was prompted by Harvey Milk, America’s first openly gay elected official, to develop the flag because prior to it the symbol for the LGBT community was a pink triangle, which was what the Nazis had used to identify and oppress homosexuals during World War II. The flag was flown for the first time at San Francisco’s 1978 Pride Parade, and it symbolized “a dawn of a new gay consciousness and freedom” as Milk describes. By flying the pride flag, the district echoes these sentiments, sending the powerful message they are standing with the LGBT community and in solidarity with their students.
The logo of the Golden State Warriors depicted on their flag is just that, a logo. It does not represent the struggles and triumphs of an entire population that has been and still is severely oppressed, all it symbolizes is the location a basketball team originated.
“Not wanting to fly the flag for fear of setting precedent is a ridiculous excuse,” another anonymous student said. “The district has the competence to know not to support specific private or hate groups.”
Following this uproar, the district Board of Trustees announced its plan to revisit the decision to not fly the flag, with Greg Land, a trustee who had missed the original meeting, calling a special meeting yesterday. Land’s vote overturned the previous ruling which sent “the wrong message.” Trustee Robert Griffin, who originally voted not to fly the flag, also changed his vote Friday. In his vote, he apologized for offending those who supported it and said he should have focused on people not the policy.
While it is indeed a positive reconsideration, students still have mixed feelings about the decision, with the majority of them being concerned about the reason for the repeal.
“I am relieved that the extra vote will allow the pride flag to be flown,” Seyfried said, “but I hope this incident isn’t forgotten and that we will continue to hold our school board accountable.”
Samidha Mishra is a junior at San Mateo High School. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at email@example.com.