Carroll County Times

Carroll County students to protest school board’s decision to remove pride flags, other ‘political’ symbols

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Diana Flores of Westminster, right, and Jacquelyn Slade, peer mentors with Carroll County Kids for Equality, work on making posters for the group, in Westminster on Saturday, May 7, 2022. The posters are for their protest next week to support flags representing inclusivity.

In an effort to push back against the Carroll County school board’s strict interpretation of its political neutrality policy, students are organizing a protest before Wednesday’s board meeting to support flags representing inclusivity.

Carroll County Kids for Equity leader Sumiya Rahaman, a junior at Westminster High School, said the protest will support representation for all Carroll County students.


“We aim to stand together side by side with other students, adults and community organizations,” Rahaman said. “Many students have felt ignored by the CCPS Board of Education — this demonstration is our way of saying enough is enough.”

On April 8, Carroll County parent Stephanie Brown distributed rainbow flags to public schools to support her 13-year-old child who had been bullied for being an LGBTQ+ advocate.


On April 13, school board members raised concern about the effort, saying the flags were political symbols and displaying them in schools goes against the recently revised political neutrality policy of the school system. The decision came in reaction to some parental concern about the distribution of rainbow flags.

Since that meeting, sexual orientation, gender equity and inclusion have been source of much debate by Carroll County parents and local organizations.

Now, Brown’s efforts have inspired the Kids for Equity group to hold the school system’s leaders accountable and support inclusivity among all students, according to Rahaman.

“Students are angry and frustrated from sharing their experiences with racism, homophobia and mental health issues, yet not seeing any actions taken by those supposed to lead our schools,” Rahaman said.

Campbell Walsh, a Manchester Valley High sophomore, works on making a poster with other people involved with Carroll County Kids for Equality, in Westminster on Saturday, May 7, 2022. The posters are for their protest next week to support flags representing inclusivity.

In late April, the student-led group launched a GoFundMe in hopes of purchasing 600 T-shirts for the protest, which is scheduled to take place outside of Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting at 3 p.m. The fundraising goal was set at $6,000 and as of Monday evening, the GoFundMe had raised more than $3,600, according to the website.

The shirt, which reads “Acceptance Empowers,” was designed by student advocate Diana Flores, a 2021 graduate of Winters Mill High School.

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“We want to spread the message ‘acceptance empowers’ through our schools and, encourage as many students as possible to show up at the board meeting on Wednesday,” Rahaman said. “These shirts show that while they can ban things in the classroom, they cannot ban our voice.”

Jacquelyn Slade of Hampstead, a peer mentor with Carroll County Kids for Equality, works on making a poster for the group, in Westminster on Saturday, May 7, 2022. The posters are for their protest next week to support flags representing inclusivity.

On Tuesday, Flores will be meeting with student representatives from every Carroll County school to distribute the shirts.


“We want to show the board of ed that the students do not agree with what they’re doing and that it is wrong and harmful,” Flores said. “I know many students who were just completely upset about the things that were said during the April 13 meeting, and I spoke to many students who have prepared speeches for Wednesday’s meeting.”

In addition to displaying T-shirts for the protest, Kids for Equity group members also made posters with uplifting messages for the LGBTQ+ community. Rahaman said she hopes the messages inspire the school board to support inclusive flags inside CCPS buildings, address issues facing marginalized youth and foster a safe school environment for all students.

“Inclusivity must always be a priority because not only are the representation of LGBTQ+ students jeopardized but also the representation of minority students,” Rahaman said. “Inclusivity is intersectional and, plays a big role in the student’s experience, school environment and academics.”