A publicly funded school that primarily serves homeschooling families in the predominantly conservative Mat-Su area has posted LGBTQ-themed signs on campus grounds.
As of last week, Mat-Su Central had posted at least two rainbow-emblazoned signs announcing that it is a “Diverse, Inclusive, Accepting, Welcoming, Safe Space for Everyone.”
Amazon sells identical signs online, describing them as LGBTQ messaging that can be used in classrooms and nurseries.
One of the notices was tacked to Mat-Su Central’s large bulletin board, near the main entrance. The other was taped to the front doors of the school library.
Signs with this exact wording have sparked heated controversy in several school districts across the country with critics saying they provide LGBTQ activists a way to signal to students and educators that schools are on board with affirming alternative sexualities and gender expressions.
Last month, a West Virginia principal ordered identically worded signs to be removed from inside an area high school, because they violated district policy against displaying material that advocates for political or social issues.
The Mat-Su School District has a similar policy, passed this summer, which prohibits school employees from using school time or resources to promote “activist” causes. It’s unclear whether a Mat-Su Central employee posted the sign, but it was displayed in multiple locations.
The Watchman sent a series of emails to Mat-Su Central Principal Stacey McIntosh to get clarification on how the signs were approved for public display, and to clarify whether the school provided, printed and displayed the notices, or whether they were submitted by an outside group.
McIntosh said the signs were provided by a “member of the Mat-Su Central school community,” but did not indicate if this person was an employee of the school. She added that the school’s protocol allows staff and students to display various types of information.
“Legally speaking this is referred to as a ‘limited public forum’ with regard to both staff and students and their freedom of speech and expression,” she noted. “Establishing limited public forums in schools is consistent with the opinion of the United States Supreme Court which has for over 40 years repeatedly held that First Amendment protections extend to ‘teachers and students,’ neither of whom ‘shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.'”
Citing a 1969 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District), McIntosh said she uses a basic rule when approving or denying displays submitted by staff and students who wish to post information on bulletin boards, walls or doors. “[P]ublic schools may prohibit on-campus speech unaffiliated with curriculum only insofar as it substantially interferes with or disrupts the educational environment, or interferes with the rights of other students,” she quoted from Tinker, adding that her “administration’s ‘approval standard’ only considers if the person’s constitutional right of free speech or expression would create a disruption to the educational environment or interfere with the rights of other students.”
McIntosh claimed, “None of the signs currently displayed in MSCS meet the threshold whereby a person’s right to freedom of expression or speech could be prohibited.”
This is not the first time a Mat-Su school has posted LGBTQ messages on school grounds. Last fall, a school psychologist, Jacob Balaskovits, urged educators at several elementary schools to encourage students in their beliefs that they are gay, bi-sexual or transgender by posting rainbow-symbol stickers around campus. These symbols, he said, let students know that educators will “affirm their chosen or shared names, pronouns, or other identities.” He also told teachers to refer students to “someone in the school who they can talk to more.”