The Pulse

Facing restrictive school policies, Union County students organize LGBTQ Pride rally

By: - May 26, 2023 7:00 am

(Image: Adobe Stock)

This weekend students in Union County will hold a youth-led LGBTQ pride rally in Waxhaw. The Saturday event, which will kick off June’s Pride Month early, comes as students and parents in Union protest school policy changes by the Union County Board of Education they say target marginalized student groups.

Earlier this month the board revised a section of the school system’s policy on instructional materials, restricting classroom displays to “materials which represent the United States, the State of North Carolina, the school name and mascot and/or tie directly to the curriculum.” Students from minority groups and their families say the policy change aims to eliminate pride flags, Black Lives Matter posters and other displays of support for marginalized students and student groups.

Further changes to the policy also state the media material – including but not limited to books in school libraries should be chosen with an eye toward “the material’s overall purpose, educational significance, age appropriateness as to both reading level and content.” Content that would be considered inappropriate, according to the policy, includes but is not limited to “sexually explicit or graphic materials.”

With the recent national spike in book challenges and bans, students and parents in Union county worry the policy will be used to prohibit books and materials that even make mention of LGBTQ figures and characters and their identities.

Source: PEN America

Last year PEN America, the free expression group that recently celebrated its 100th year, produced an exhaustive study of the state of book banning in the U.S. The most common factor in the books banned: Depiction of LGBTQ protagonists or even prominent LGBTQ secondary characters and discussion of LGBTQ themes. Following closely, in terms of number of banned books, are those featuring prominent characters of color and examining themes of race and racism.

“Our schools should protect all students and respect all families—including queer and trans students and families—so they can learn and thrive in a safe environment,” LGBTQ advocacy group Equality NC said in a statement supporting the rally this week. “LGBTQ+ youth already face discrimination in their daily lives and often turn to affirming teachers and school staff to support them in the classroom and beyond.”

The rally, which will feature remarks from students, parents and community members, will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Water Tower Community Corner at the intersection of N.C. Highway 16 and North Main Street in downtown Waxhaw.

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Joe Killian
Joe Killian

Investigative Reporter Joe Killian's work examines government, politics and policy, with a special emphasis on higher education, LGBTQ issues and extremism.