Michigan teacher Russell Ball resigned on Nov. 22 after he was told by the Three Rivers Middle School to take down his pride flag. Ball said that he wouldn’t be involved in the oppression of an already marginalized group, and he quit during third period. The school is investigating the incident.
According to the former teacher, he and his fellow teachers received an email on Nov. 19 from their principal asking them to remove all pride flags from classrooms. The email said, “Due to an external challenge in the district that has reached the board level, I have been advised that staff in the building who have pride flags hanging in their rooms will need to take them down until further notice.”
Ball said that there had been rumors going around that some parents had problems with the pride flags in classrooms. He had been working at the middle school as their health teacher and also taught some sports teams.
Ball refused to take the flag down, and eventually he got another email and a text from the principal saying that he needed to remove the flag by his fourth period. The Michigan teacher packed up his belongings and sent the school his letter of resignation.
Russell Ball said that he even told his students about the first email and many of them were grateful that he didn’t take down the flag. Some of them even clapped and cheered for their former teacher.
“I was extremely disheartened,” said Ball. “I was quite livid that something that means so much to me has been taken as being political and divisive, when really it just stands for love and acceptance, inclusion for everybody.”
After quitting, the bisexual teacher told reporters that he wanted his classroom to be a safe space for students and that many of them appreciated that he hung up the flag. He said that he hopes quitting will show his students that it’s OK to stand up for your beliefs even if it doesn’t make you popular with the crowd.
Following his resignation, Three Rivers Middle School said that it will continue to look into the matter.
The school released a statement to the community and the media after the Michigan teacher quit. They said, “In regard to the pride flags that were displayed in the classroom, they were temporarily removed from each classroom until the Board of Education could carefully review this matter and gather additional facts. Information was shared with the TRCS Board of Education and [Middle School Principal Jason Bingaman], who then passed this guidance on to the TRMS staff in the form of an email.”
The statement continued: “TRCS continues to explore best ways to support all students, including the continuation of the GSA Club already established at TRMS. Continued guidance of Thrun Law Firm, review of current board policies, and reaching out to other districts for best practices will also be part of this ongoing process. TRCS appreciates all of the contributions of our staff and will continue to comply with its Board policies.”
According to sources, a protest over the removal of pride flags is scheduled for Dec. 6 during the next board meeting. The protest will start 30 minutes before 6 p.m. and then protesters will join the meeting and voice their concerns to the board.
Russell Ball said that he will be attending the protest and is planning to hold up the pride flag that he refused to remove from his classroom.
Comments on the school district’s Facebook page already reflect a community disappointed with how their middle school handled the situation. One person wrote, “It is disappointing Three Rivers Community Schools has decided to kick protections and support for LGBTQ+ students to the curb for some undisclosed reason. The district claims protection for all students but somehow figured LGBTQ+ students don’t fit in that category for all students and are now willing to show the students and their support network of teachers to the door.”