For Immediate Release/Press Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Miami Freedom Project implores School Board Officials to vote NO to “School Board Policy H-7”. This proposed bill will encourage division and discourage diversity in our community, hurt students’ social and emotional well-being, and has potential financial ramifications that will cut resources from our students that need them the most. We believe in equitable representation for all members of federally protected classes in the United States, including race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and people with disabilities. We also believe in the power and sanctity of the American flag and support having American flags in classrooms across the district. However, to ensure all students feel safe and protected in our schools, we must ensure policies that harm are not supported or pushed through.
As a Latino-led organization in Miami-Dade, we know how vital una bandera can be. We see flags from across the diaspora uplifted daily in neighborhoods, businesses, and cars across our city. Likewise, our children deserve to attend schools that uplift and celebrate their cultures and unique experiences. Flags from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the rest of the countries in Latin America represent salient aspects of a Miami-Dade student’s identity, and only harm can come from telling them their flag isn’t worthy of space in their classroom.
Since 2011, Miami-Dade County Public Schools has had the policy to prevent politics or campaigning in classrooms. This includes advertisement or promotion of “a political party, a political cause, or an individual’s candidacy for public office.” A person’s heritage, country of origin, ethnicity, background, identity, or race is not “political.” Flags that represent military service, universities, awareness for human rights, or acknowledge other vital issues like supporting public education are not “political.” Furthermore, it is already written into legislation that American flags must fly in every classroom in Florida. Therefore, there is already a policy that addresses this proposal’s concerns. This proposal aims to target specifically protected identities, which is why a vote NO is a vote for our kids.
The policy currently in place and its interpretation have been striking the right balance and ensuring teachers and school officials can make the right decisions in their community to protect students. However, a significant concern for our organization is that some activists and board members may want to weaponize these policies against specific communities. We must keep our schools out of the culture wars by focusing on fundamental issues such as academic achievement, the social-emotional well-being of our students, and educator shortages.
School Board Policy H-7 would only allow teachers to have flags representing other cultures when applied to curriculum needs, such as Hispanic Heritage Month or Black History Month. This does a disservice when over 70% of students in our schools identify as Hispanic/Latino/Latinx, and 19% identify as Black/African American. For students with multicultural identity seeing their flag and culture represented in their classroom all year long allows school to be a safe place for learning and growth. Seeing flags from other cultures and counties also inspires students to learn about their classmates making space for windows and mirrors in our schools.
Districts that have restricted certain flags deemed “political” have ended up in court battles and lost. In Duval County, the school board removed a teacher from the classroom after she refused to take down a flag that the district considered “political” but that she stated to be about human rights. This retaliatory decision violated the teacher’s first amendment rights. In addition, it resulted in the district paying the teacher $300,000 to settle the case and to avoid a multi-year, multi-million dollar lawsuit. Miami-Dade County Public Schools should focus on keeping our kids safe and educating our young people in the hopes of a better tomorrow, not getting into lawsuits with teachers for creating inclusive classrooms.
In Is Your State Prioritizing Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, a recent study conducted by the Education Trust, scans were done based on publicly available information as of 2021 on the social-emotional well-being in schools, Florida did not fare well. According to the report, Florida needs to explicitly prioritize student, family, and community engagement strategies in its state comprehensive or ESSA plans. School Board Policy H-7 directly reflects this issue. Unfortunately, this policy does not support the students, families, and communities of Miami-Dade. Our community is rich with cultural diversity representing many different countries and cultures. Students deserve to feel seen in their classrooms, and teachers should be empowered to create safe spaces for learning.
As things are, it is mandatory to fly an American flag in the classroom, and protected identities and human rights issues are not seen as “political” because they ensure the safety of marginalized members of our community. This bill only seeks to divide our community and silence members, which is why a vote NO is a vote for the community. Our culture is not political. Our community cannot be silenced.