Connetquot community demands reversal of school district's ban on LGBTQ pride flags
Over 1,400 members of the Connetquot community on Long Island have signed a petition to force the school district to reverse its ban on LGBTQ pride flags.
The petition is part of an ongoing effort by LGBTQ supporters to allow pride flags back into classrooms and comes on the heels of contentious school board meetings and the announcement that the ban is under investigation by the state.
LGBTQ supporters gathered this week to deliver the petition to administration officials at their offices in Bohemia, where they planted dozens of pride flags outside the building.
“We stand here with over 1,000 signatures begging for this ban to be reversed,” said Sarah Smith, a Connetquot schools alum who identifies as bisexual. “We as a community know how a ban like this relating to historically marginalized groups has the potential to wreak havoc on the mental health of the victims, in this case, students.”
Smith cited statistics from a recent survey that found high levels of depression and other mental health conditions among Long Island’s LGBTQ youth.
Connetquot schools banned all flags except the U.S. and New York state flags after a student complained that a display with the progressive pride flag made them uncomfortable, according to the school board president. The progressive pride flag includes the traditional rainbow plus black, brown, pink, light blue and white stripes to represent the transgender community, people of color, and AIDS victims.
Ben Santiardo, a gay parent of a Connetquot school student, said at a news conference that the flag is not a political statement and seeing it makes LGBTQ students feel welcome.
“I am at a loss as to how — when an alleged complaint came forth claiming that there were feelings of being uncomfortable due to the presence of LGBT flags — that this was not immediately used as a teaching moment to explain what these flags actually represent, which is that of a quality, tolerance and inclusion for all,” Santiardo said.
The superintendent did not respond to a request for comment.
Last month, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul directed the state’s Department of Human Rights to investigate the school’s actions.