A teacher says heresigned from a Michigan middle school after refusing to take down a pride flag in his classroom.
Russell Ball, a teacher who worked at Three Rivers Middle School, resigned after receiving an email from the school principal this month asking educators to take down all pride flags in classrooms, WWMT reported.
Ball said he’s been a teacher for over a decade in a video posted to social media.
He told MLive he received an email from the principal days later, once again asking for pride flags to be removed.
“Due to an external challenge in the district that has reached the board level, I have been advised that staff in the building who have pride flags hanging in their rooms will need to take them down until further notice,” an email from the principal obtained by WWMT said.
Ball said he then received a text message from the principal asking him to remove the flag, according to WWMT.
“I was extremely disheartened,” Ball told the outlet. “I was quite livid that something that means so much to me has been taken as being political and divisive, when really it just stands for love and acceptance, inclusion for everybody.”
Ball resigned Nov. 22 after receiving the text message, MLive reported.
“The students losing that representation throughout the classrooms really hurt, losing my own representation in the classroom really hurt. It was just something I was not prepared to do,” he told WOOD-TV.
He tweeted about his resignation.
“I refuse to be an active part of the oppression and suppression of an already marginalized student population,” he wrote. “The PRIDE flag isn’t political.”
I resigned today after 12 years in education when the district demanded I remove my pride flag from my classroom. I refuse to be an active part of the oppression and suppression of an already marginalized student population. The PRIDE flag isn't political @wwmtnews @outfrontkzoo
— Russell Ball (@coach_lardie) November 22, 2021
On Nov. 24, the school sent a statement to families and staff members, WWMT reported.
According to the email, the flags were removed in response to an “external party” who contacted the school board regarding the Gay Straight Alliance club at the school. The email said the flags were “temporarily removed” due to the concern, and the issue would be addressed at the board’s Dec. 6 meeting.
Ball, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, said in a TikTok video that he did not want to contribute to the oppression of “an already marginalized group.”
“The pride flag stands for love, inclusion and equality, something that should be present in every single classroom across the country,” he said in the video, which has been viewed more than 3,200 in the past week. “By removing it, I feel like I’m being told that I am invalidated, that I don’t belong. And that is not a message I want to send to myself or any of my students.”
Ball said in the video he was already experiencing “burnout” from the profession when he was told to take down his flag.
He shared this advice for students who identify as LGBTQ: “You belong. You matter, and you always have a place in this world.”
Three Rivers is on Michigan’s southern border and is in St. Joseph County.