NEW RICHMOND, Ohio — New Richmond Middle School last week requested all its teachers take down any rainbow symbols in their classrooms — symbols many had put up as emblems of LGBTQ+ pride and allyship.
School board president Kristin Bennett said the district had received complaints about them, some from students, and felt a need to ensure the classrooms were “neutral.”
“We need to make sure our classrooms are neutral, and our students, the information that gets to them, is at their maturity level,” Bennett said.
But LGBTQ students as well as advocates in the community said they were deeply disappointed by the change. Lilly Staton, a New Richmond High School sophomore, said the removal of the rainbows sends a message to kids who weren’t complaining, too.
"They wanted to show that they were a safe accepting space for LGBTQ+ students to be able to talk to them about issues relating to that,” she said of the teachers who’d put rainbows up. “I feel like it's (the removal) a rather drastic measure to take for this, and I honestly felt kind of hurt, because they have things at the high school that are supportive for LGBTQ+ students, but I feel it's more important to have those at the middle school.”
Staton’s perspective comes from firsthand experience. She remembers middle school as a difficult time during which she and other students first began questioning their gender, sexuality and other aspects of their identities.
“It was not an easy time at all,” she said. And she wishes there had been support.
Seeing it taken down stings.
In a statement to Pride advocates, district superintendent Tracey Miller wrote that taking down the rainbows did not represent a policy change or the discontinuation of any existing programs to support LGBTQ students.
“We are committed to ensuring that all of our students and staff know that there are people throughout this district who care about them, support them and who want to provide the help they need,” Miller wrote.