Teacher bans American flag from classroom as it ‘stands for violence and intolerance’

American flag hangs in the foreground of a classroom as two people sit at a table in the background

A teacher removed the American flag from her classroom saying it represents “violence and menace and intolerance” in protest of a policy banning “political symbols”.

Gail Grobey, an English teacher at Newberg High School, told the Newberg Graphic that educators were “trying to start a school year positively”. But she said the school board’s ban on Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Pride symbols was an unwanted ‘distraction’ to that work.

“It’s challenging to think about putting together the beginning of school but still feeling really compelled to take action as a body to show the kids and families how much we support them and who they are,” Grobey said.

Grobey told the Newberg Graphic that most teachers in the district didn’t have any BLM or Pride symbols in their classrooms. She added that those who did use them as a means to make students feel safer and more at school.

“I’ll say this personally: I’ve spent 23 years in this district and you can’t tell me what to do,” Grobey said. “I know my kids, and I know what’s best for them and what to do to help them feel comfortable.”

In response to the school board’s new resolution, Grobey decided to remove the American flag from her classroom because it’s the “most political symbol there is”.

“That symbol doesn’t stand for freedom or justice or equality anymore,” Grobey said. “It stands for violence and menace and intolerance, and I will not fly that in my room.”

Last month, the Newberg Public Schools Board made international headlines after it voted 4-3 to ban signs, flags, clothing and other items deemed to be broadly “political” from its school buildings. This included any symbols that are seen to support the BLM and LGBT+ movements.

The divisive decision prompted local farmers Jaybill and Erin McCarthy to erect a giant progress Pride flag in their pasture, facing a local high school where the symbol was banned. Erin said the couple wanted to let young people know that they aren’t alone through this “difficult” time.