Gail Grobey, who removed the American flag from her classroom, explained that the symbol “stands for violence and menace and intolerance.” The English teacher at Newberg High School defended her choice to take down the red, white, and blue from her classroom. It was allegedly in response to her district’s vote to ban Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride symbols in schools.
According to the Portland-area teacher, her union is currently attempting to get the ban overturned. Grobey explained to reporters that “we are certainly going to become very active in terms of supporting the community coalition that has formed against these actions by the board.” It was reported that not only does Gail Grobey stand against the ban but also feels the school board’s actions have added unnecessary distractions for teachers and students alike.
The Newberg School District reopened on Sept. 8, allowing students to return in person for the first time since March 2020. And while they all returned with masks over their mouth and nose, both students and teachers have another thing to worry about.
“We’re trying to start a school year positively, and the distractions these four people [on the school board] are putting out there are not making that very easy,” Grobey claimed. She reportedly works as the chairperson for the Newberg teachers’ union which stands against the recent ban. The teacher said that it’s hard enough to adjust to coming in person and that the political move only made things worse.
“It’s challenging to think about putting together the beginning of school but still feeling really compelled to take action as a body to show the kids and families how much we support them and who they are,” Gail Grobey said. She claimed that she and her fellow teachers used Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride symbols to show support for their students but were forced to remove them from the classrooms.
The legality of the school board’s ban has yet to be determined, however, and any actions to rescind it have been delayed. The district’s legal counsel previously claimed that the ban would be illegal, though the superintendent is waiting for confirmation.
In response to the school board’s ban, Gail Grobey made her own political stand. The Newberg teacher removed the American flag from her classroom “because that’s the most political symbol there is.” She claimed that “personally: I’ve spent 23 years in this district and you can’t tell me what to do.”
“I know my kids, and I know what’s best for them and what to do to help them feel comfortable,” she explained to reporters. “When I see Trevor DeHart sitting there at those board meetings with that giant American flag behind him, it’s terrifying. That symbol doesn’t stand for freedom or justice or equality anymore. It stands for violence and menace and intolerance, and I will not fly that in my room.”
The teacher has since received backlash for her actions, with some calling for the teacher to be fired. Despite those sentiments, others have defended the teacher. But is she right or wrong?
Newberg High School Principal Tami Erion wrote in a letter to teacher’s Tuesday that “as a community, we continue to grapple with issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Newberg High School is committed to ensuring that ALL students are afforded a safe learning environment by prohibiting harassment based upon gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion or disability.”
The letter was a response to the current political debate, as well as a separate incident involving students from the school. According to the principal, some students took part in a mock “slave trade” in a Snapchat group chat, posting pictures of fellow students with racist and homophobic slurs attached.
It’s not clear if the principal stood behind Gail Grobey’s choice to take remove the American flag. A spokesman for the Newberg School District told reporters from Fox News that the district knew about Grobey’s remarks but said they could not comment on the matter.
In her conversation with reporters, Gail Grobey said that “we want to be really excited about the kids coming in and there is already this ubiquitous apprehension around the risks of COVID. You throw in this other thing where Big Brother wants to control what we support or what we talk about.”
“Are we going to cancel government classes?” she asked. “That is deeply political. What does civics mean? We can’t have civil discourse on anything under this policy language, and it’s frankly ridiculous.”