Michigan Teacher Says He Quit After Being Ordered To Remove Pride Flag From Classroom

Photo: TikTok / Wut_Moppie / Shutterstock
Russell Ball, Pride Flag

The fight for equal treatment and representation in the law and society for the LGBTQ+ community has been a long and arduous one.

In recent years, government policy has slowly reflected a change in public values and the LGBTQ+ community is enjoying progress in receiving fair treatment and representation.

However, as one Michigan teacher knows all too well, the fight is not over.

Russell Ball was a physical education and health teacher in Three Rivers Middle School in St. Joseph County, Michigan who was horrified when his pride flag created tensions at work.

The Michigan teacher has now quit after being ordered to remove a pride flag from his classroom.

On Monday, November 22nd, Ball resigned from his position at the school after, as Ball says, “... administration came around and told me to take down my pride flag.”

This isn’t the first time that the issue of pride flags came up at the school.

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Reportedly, there were other pride flags up in other classrooms around the school, but following complaints from parents two emails were sent out from the administration.

The emails instructed the teachers to take down their pride flags, and after the other teachers were pressured into taking down their flags, Ball says that he was the only one left.

Ball says that when the administration continued to try to pressure him into taking the pride flag down, he simply tendered his resignation.

That very same day, Ball recorded a TikTok to capture his feelings and stances on the issue.

   

   

In the video, Ball states, “I was already feeling a high level of teacher burnout and struggling to meet the day to day demands of the education field. But when administration came around and told me to take down my pride flag, I told them ‘no.’”

Ball went on to explain what it would mean for him to bend to the complaints and to take down his pride flag, “I was not going to be an active participant in suppression and oppression of an already marginalized group that I am a part of.”

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Ball also described what the pride flag means to him and to his students, “To me, the flag stands for love and inclusion for everybody, not just for members of the LGBTQ community.”

Ball has said that it wasn’t just him and that he had students that were happy to see the flag there, “I had students that were happy to see the flag and in the room that were telling me, 'Thank you for being here.'”

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Ball's departure is an unfortunate result of the anti-LGBTQ bigotry in the school.

Ball’s departure is a statement that he would not be complicit in the suppression of the LGBTQ+ community, regardless of the complaint of parents. Ball wanted his classroom to remain a place that was safe for everyone, and especially for people that the greater society didn’t openly accept.

The incident at Three Rivers Middle School shares an eery resemblance to many other stories around the country, including a Missouri teacher that resigned in September over the exact same issue.

While things have gotten better in the United States in recent years for the LGBTQ+, bigotry and hate are, evidently, still present and real threats.

It's important to recognize when something is a divisive political issues and when it's not. As Ball puts it, "The pride flag is not a political statement. It's a human rights statement."

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.