Last week’s decision by the Carroll County Board of Education outlining which flags can and cannot be displayed on school property has state politicians battling on social media.
On Wednesday, the school board voted 4-1 to permit only American, Maryland, Carroll County flags and flags related to student achievement, sports banners and flags of other nations to be displayed on school property.
The effect of the vote was to ban the display of rainbow LGBTQ+ pride flags. The vote was made after the board heard opposing viewpoints from several community members at a lengthy meeting.
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin called for the board to “revoke this ludicrous and hurtful policy” in a tweet.
“Carroll County Bd of Ed’s absurd decision to allow countless different flags to fly at school — but not the Pride flag — is unconstitutional. The First Amendment forbids ‘viewpoint discrimination,’” read the tweet from Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat.
Although Raskin currently represents parts of Carroll County, including Westminster, that changes with redistricting, which places the county in District 2, currently represented by Democrat Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, and District 3, represented by Democrat Rep. John Sarbanes.
State Sen. Justin Ready, a Carroll County Republican and minority whip of the GOP caucus of the Maryland Senate, responded to Raskin on Facebook in a Saturday post that is signed by him and Del. Haven Shoemaker, a Carroll County Republican and candidate for state’s attorney.
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“Congressman Raskin should stay in his own lane,” the Facebook post read. “He is a United States Congressman, and at a time when inflation is running rampant, gas prices are at record highs, and the Democrats in Washington have everything completely fouled up, shouldn’t he be more concerned about cleaning up the messes he and Biden have made than attacking and mischaracterizing the flag policy of the Carroll County School Board?”
On Friday, state Sen. Katie Fry Hester, a Howard County Democrat who currently represents a portion of Carroll County, also weighed in on the vote.
“Banning the Pride flag runs counter to our state’s core values of tolerance and inclusion. I am disappointed by the decision of the Carroll County Board of Education — especially during Pride month — and hope that they will swiftly reconsider.”
Last week’s vote and two months of debate was spurred by the distribution of rainbow flags to every county public school on April 8 by parent Stephanie Brown. The flags were paid for by the Westminster chapter of the nonprofit PFLAG, which stands for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
After this, school board members asked staff at the April 13 meeting to draft a policy that would ban political flags from being displayed inside schools.
Wednesday’s vote does ban display of the LGBTQ+ pride flags on school grounds but does not prohibit students or faculty from wearing pride flags on clothing, said Edmund O’Meally, legal counsel to the board, at the meeting.
“Students are still free to wear whatever they choose to wear in accordance with the dress code; [it does not] prohibit the display of the Pride flags or any other flag for that matter,” O’Meally said.