Getting Answers: parents unhappy with flag policy at local schools

Parents in Hatfield told us that they are not happy with specific flags that they say are hung up in their children’s school.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 4:10 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 13, 2023 at 6:32 PM EDT
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HATFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Communities across western Massachusetts are working to adopt policies for flying flags on public property to celebrate ethnic groups, causes, and organizations, including in Amherst, Chicopee, Hatfield and Southwick.

“There’s a LGBTQ flag hanging in the music room. There was a BLM flag hanging in the hallway of the preschool area,” Jon Lavin of Easthampton told us. “I just feel that it has nothing to do with the school curriculum, and if our kids are in that community, it’s up to the parents to discuss that with their kids, not the teachers.”

Parents in Hatfield told us that they are not happy with specific flags that they say are hung up in their children’s school.

“There is no flag policy, there is nothing in the student handbook,” Lavin said. “Our kids started to put up the thin blue line magnet and a don’t tread on me magnet, and they were told they are not allowed to.”

Lavin has a child who attends Hatfield Elementary School. He told Western Mass News that he and several other parents have raised concerns about teachers hanging up these two flags in the school.

“We brought it up to the subcommittee,” he told us. “There’s quite a few parents that have spoken out. They say they are looking into other communities that are dealing with similar issues, but it just seems like it just keeps getting pushed down the road.”

The Hatfield school superintendent shared a statement with us that read, in part:

“Given concern from a few community voices, we are exploring policy around symbols on school property. This prospective policy is still in a working state with the policy subcommittee.”

Hatfield is not the only community revising their flag policy after the Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that the practice of flying flags to celebrate ethnic groups and communities was protected by free speech. Last month, Chicopee Mayor John Vieau submitted a proposed ordinance to the city council that will give city leaders the choice of which flags are flown and which are not in the city.

The town of Amherst is also proposing a revised flag policy this week. Town Manager Paul Buckleman told us in a statement, in part:

“Town staff has recommended that the Town Council adopt a flag display policy that would serve two purposes: (a) avoid the perception of bias in decision making regarding which flags are permitted to be displayed by establishing clear rules and standards and (b) limit the risk of liability from an allegation of discrimination or bias.”

Over in Southwick, the select board is expected to discuss their town’s flag policy during a meeting Monday night. Meanwhile, Lavin shared what he ultimately wants to see done in Hatfield Public Schools.

“I would like just the United States flag hanging and that’s about it,” he said. “If you’re going to allow teachers to have rights, you need to allow students to have rights.”