WALES, Wis. - The Kettle Moraine School Board voted Tuesday night, Aug. 16 to keep a policy in place that bans pride flags and other items. Board member Jim Romanowski was the sole no vote, saying he changed his mind about the policy after hearing from students and staff. The superintendent says pride flags are considered political and, therefore, against the employee Code of Conduct. Students and the ACLU question that.
Almost every inch of the library was filled during the board meeting. Public comment was capped at an hour.
"I am not controversial. I am not political. I am a person," one student told the board.
Students and parents loudly shared their opinions with the Kettle Moraine School Board before the vote.
"I don't see a good reason for this policy," said a parent.
"The fact is, the majority of students don't want or need this, so catering to the minority only encourages the envelope to be pushed further," said a student.
Several people spoke in support of the policy, but the majority of public comment was strongly against it.
"Pride flags are not me taking a political stance," said a student. "They are a statement saying I accept myself and others."
Public comment was capped after an hour despite a call from the crowd to extend it. It's unclear how many people in the crowd planned to speak either for or against.
Hours before Tuesday's vote, FOX6 spoke with Bethany Provan and Britain Farrar, who said they learned a lot during their freshman year at Kettle Moraine High School, but a lesson learned over the summer may be one they’ll never forget.
"We are trying to speak out because it’s not right," said Farrar.
In July, they launched a Change.org petition to get the school board to reverse the policy that bans pride flags in the classroom. So far, 13,000 people have signed it.
"It doesn’t feel like my school supports us, which sucks," said Provan.
In the months leading up to Tuesday's vote, the school board had discussed the district’s employee Code of Conduct.
Kettle Moraine School District
"Teachers and administration will not have political flags or religious messaging in their classroom or on their person," said Superintendent Stephen Plum.
Plum said in July anything that includes slogans like "Black Lives Matter," "Blue Lives Matter" and even preferred pronouns in a teacher’s email signature is considered political.
"If you have a policy that says ‘nothing political,’ does that mean you can’t have a sign up that says, ‘Support our Troops,’ or ‘Believe Women’ or ‘Save the Planet?' By some people’s definitions, all of those things are political," said Christine Donahoe, ACLU of Wisconsin staff attorney.
Donahoe said she's looking closely at this case and a similar policy that was approved in the School District of Waukesha in fall 2021.
"It really looks like targeted attacks at specific viewpoints, like LGBT communities, or welcome and safe spaces to students of color," said Donahoe.
During past board meetings, some supported the policy.
"Since when do we have to validate everyone’s belief system? We don’t," said Amy Richards of Dousman in June.
Some students said they were hopeful Tuesday's meeting would change the course.
"Having a rainbow flag in your room isn’t pushing your beliefs on someone," said Provan. "It’s just saying, ‘Hey, you’re welcome here, and we support you.’"
Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, FOX6 News reached out to every school board member and the superintendent by email. No one returned our request for an interview.