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Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Pride flag indicates a safe space, not a political symbol; student member of Carroll County school board makes us proud | READER COMMENTARY

Pride flag indicates a safe space, not a political symbol

For anti-abortion people of faith, suicide prevention should be important. According to recent studies, children and teens who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community are at a higher risk of suicide. The recent decision by the Carroll County School Board of Education to ban pride flags from our schools is troubling because it eliminates a simple and effective symbol of support for LGBTQ+ students and their families — one that could save a life.

As a local Christian pastor in a same-sex marriage and parent to children in CCPS, I care deeply about the health, well-being, and education of our youth. A teacher choosing to display a pride flag does nothing to change the minds of those uncomfortable with the LGBTQ+ community. It doesn’t indoctrinate students whose families teach them to, at best, avoid LGBTQ+ peers. It doesn’t make straight kids gay. What it does do, however, is show those students struggling with their sexuality or gender expression that, at a minimum, their teacher is a safe person they can talk to if they should begin to really struggle. It shows we value the precious lives of all of God’s beloved children.

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In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus speaks of a traveler who is beaten and left for dead on the roadside. The well-regarded members of society walk by the dying traveler, but the Samaritan offers aid to his Jewish neighbor. In that time, Samaritans and Jews hated one another, yet the Samaritan does not hesitate when he sees someone in trouble. He does not ask what religion he is, what political party he belongs to, or what his sexuality or gender identification is; he sees a human being in pain and offers him help. The Samaritan values life and loves his neighbor.

The pride flag does not represent a political party or religious group. It doesn’t dimmish our shared American identity. It doesn’t symbolize a hate-group. Instead, it stands as an image of refuge for students unable to find a safe space anywhere else, including their homes or churches. It lets LGBTQ+ children know they are seen as human beings worthy of love, rather than the despised “other.” It offers them the assurance that they are not alone. If we truly care about the lives of our youth, allowing the option of displaying pride flags, lets teachers safely, diplomatically “say gay” and, most importantly, save lives.

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The Rev. Jessica Ashcroft-Townsley, Hampstead

Ashcroft-Townsley is the pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Manchester

Student member of school board makes us proud

I write to congratulate Ms. Devanshi Mistry, student representative on the Carroll County Board of Education, for her bravery, dedication, and steadfastness to justice. Ms. Mistry has served for the past two years, and has been tremendously impressive in this role. She is always prepared, speaks thoughtfully, and conducts herself professionally, even while being treated as less than.

Despite not having voting rights, Ms. Mistry frequently vocalizes her support or dissent for board decisions, sending a powerful message to students and the greater community she represents.

Recently, I was present during the discussion surrounding consideration of a new “flag policy” in CCPS. After a generous donation of LGBTQIA+ rainbow pride flags was made to all schools in the county, some raised concerns that this was a political act. In fact, the intent was to provide flags for anyone who wished to make a small gesture of support for students and staff who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Displaying a pride flag indicates one is generally respectful and accepting of all gender identities and sexual orientations, and that those who identify as LGBTQIA+ are valued and safe to express themselves and/or seek help if needed.

I listened as most board members bemoaned the presence of the flags as “just a piece of cloth,” “inappropriate,” and “upsetting,” failing to recognize how this framing conveyed an attitude of intolerance. Following the discussion, several citizens made public comments that were not only divisive and downright false — many were truly hateful. After witnessing this display, my stomach and heart are still aching for LGBTQIA+ students and community members in Carroll County.

In contrast, Ms. Mistry respectfully posed clarifying questions, stated she was surprised and disappointed that acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people was even being raised as an issue, and registered a symbolic “nay” vote on the motion to create a new flag policy. While she has held strong to her convictions throughout her tenure as student representative, Ms. Mistry’s performance at that meeting was incredibly inspiring. I hope she understands how important her voice and actions have been, and wish her all the best as she concludes her time on the board and moves on to an even bigger and certainly brighter future.

Thank you for your service, Devanshi. You have made a difference, and we are so proud of you. I hope we can move forward in your footsteps and make you proud, too.

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Amanda Jozkowski, Eldersburg

Candidate champions conservative values

My name is Chris Tomlinson and I am running to represent Carroll County in the Maryland House of Delegates in the new Fifth Legislative District. The new district will be represented by three delegates and will encompass the majority of Carroll County including Taneytown, Union Bridge, New Windsor, Harney, Keymar, Silver Run, Union Mills, Mount Airy, Woodbine, Winfield, Taylorsville, Eldersburg, Sykesville, and the municipalities of Manchester and Westminster.

For the last eight years, District Five has been represented by Del. Susan Krebs, Haven Shoemaker and April Rose. With Krebs and Shoemaker not seeking reelection, I am running to fill one of those vacated seats. I am proud to have the support of all three of our current delegates in this election. The members of our current delegation are supporting me because they know that I possess true Carroll County values and that I am a fighter who will stand up for my constituents in Annapolis and deliver results.

I am running because as a longtime conservative activist and a dedicated community volunteer, I have the energy and experience required to hit the ground running and get to work on day one.

As a community leader, I have organized multiple food drives in the Hampstead/Manchester area, planned a free showing of the Heroin Still Kills film, ensured that historical properties were preserved, and raised thousands of dollars for college scholarships.

As a Republican leader, I served on the Board of the Maryland Republican Party, was awarded the party’s 2018 Grassroots Volunteer of the Year, provided conservative commentary live on ABC2 during Election night in 2016 and 2020, and constructed and erected the only President Donald Trump billboard in Carroll County in 2020.

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Once elected to the Maryland General Assembly, I will fight back against tax increases, vaccine mandates, government overreach, the opioid epidemic and liberal indoctrination in our schools. As your delegate, I will fight for small businesses, our agricultural heritage, the integrity of our elections, the lives of the unborn, law and order and those in uniform, and 2nd Amendment rights.

The Primary Election is July 19, so do not forget to mark your calendars now. In the Republican primary election, I ask that you please consider Chris Tomlinson for one of your three votes for State Delegate.

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Chris Tomlinson, Melrose

Tomlinson is a Republican candidate of the Maryland House of Delegates

Symbols identify welcoming places, not indoctrination

As a bisexual transgender woman and resident of Carroll County (though currently writing from Washington DC due to pursuing graduate studies in that city), I am heartened by Katie Speert’s response to the pride flag issue, but I am unsettled by the vague insistence that “culture” is the issue.

The school board does not issue decisions on Carroll’s culture, and organizations like ACT UP did not fight the AIDS crisis through vague demands on “culture,” nor did their efforts fundamentally change the culture. Furthermore, inasmuch as it serves as a shorthand identifier of safe individuals to talk to, pride flags or something like them are in fact needed. I know a few teachers who I thought would be accepting due to a trusting relationship who have broken that trust after I came out and revealed they would likely have outed me to other students, or worse. Having a trusting relationship does not guarantee it will continue to be one, and that is something all too many queer kids know. Symbols are a part of culture, and clear, unambiguous identifiers of welcoming places are necessary, and no more political, than say, a Dungeons & Dragons sign which shows nerds are welcome.

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Every election year, we tend to ignore the people calling D&D satanic and political, so why should we listen to those who say the same of pride flags? Mere affiliations are not political unless fearmongers make them so.

To those who would spurn me — I knew the word “transgender” and that it described me as early as middle school but was taught to hide it. You won’t end gay or trans kids, you’ll just make them grow into gay and trans adults with trauma and pain. Gay and trans people do not want to make straight or cis kids gay or trans. We know the pain of being forced to be somebody you are not. We simply want to see gay and trans kids grow into adults. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Phoebe Shatzer, Taneytown


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