Walkout leads Hastings supt. to take LGBTQ flag policy to board

Barry County

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several Hastings High School students are upset after LGBTQ pride flags were removed from the classroom.

The district says having flags that are unrelated to the school, country or curriculum are against policy. Now that policy is being reviewed thanks to organized action by a group of students. 

Earlier this week, more than 100 students walked out, demanding change to ensure they feel included.

“It’s inevitable that we are here, so having those flags taken away was kind of like taking away that sense of community,” junior Lucy Jenkins told News 8 Thursday.  

The group of students who organized the walkout all identify as members of the LGBTQ community. So when teachers were told by the district to take down pride flags in their classrooms last week, the students say they immediately felt less safe.

“There’s just a lot of people who hateful toward our community and it just hurts us; it’s not OK at all,” Hannah Vann, also a junior, said. “And having the pride flag being taken down kind of says the hateful people, they won against us and that’s not OK.”

“I know I can’t change the world but I want to feel safe at school, I want my friends to feel safe at school. And even if someone still decided to say they don’t agree with how I identify, I would rather that happen and they respect me than not,” sophomore Zara Franklin added.

Instead of stopping the peaceful protest, the high school principal and the Hastings Area School System superintendent attended to hear what they had to say.

“I sat down with many of these students after school probably for about an hour and a half, two hours, and I was just listening to their concerns over the policy,” Superintendent Matt Goebel said. “Obviously, this means a great deal to them and if it means a great deal to them, it means a great deal to me.”

Goebel says it’s his job to make sure all students feel safe, respected and a sense of belonging while following school policy and procedures.

“I truly believe that that’s not a fairy tale story,” Goebel said. “I truly believe that we can make sure that everybody feels safe, respected, valued. And those are things I strive for here as a leader here in Hastings.”

He says he will take the policy to the school board for review.

“Some people are like, ‘My school is so small and in a red town; how am I going to get my message across?’ And we are kind of proving that you can do that within a small community,” Vann said. 

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