Passaic County students continue to protest to show their Pride

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rainbow flag waving in the wind
Rainbow Flag, photo by Köln

The Board of ed and LGBTQ students and allies are now at odds

Passaic Count Board of Education Members

Passaic County New Jersey LGBTQ students and supportive allies gathered in the streets Monday, March 28, after the Board of Education passed a new policy prohibiting students from waving their pride flags. The controversial policy only allows for the American flag, the state flag, and the school flag to be flown.

According to NJ.com, there were about 75 students wrapped in rainbow flags marching in the chilly weather outside of the county’s three public high schools, Passaic PREP, Passaic Academy for Science and Engineering, and Passaic High School. The students advocated for their peers to join them in protest as they continued their fight into the evening at the Board of Education meeting.

“We’re not going to stop until we get what we want,” said Amari Gawthney, who led the march to City Hall and the Board of Education building. “We put up the flag last year with no problem. Then this new policy came from out of the blue, and they pushed it under the rug.”

In June of 2021 the students were able to raise their flags on school grounds for the first time in celebration of Pride month. At the time, there was no policy against it. However, after the Pride flag flying caused controversy in the county, the board enacted a blanket ban last November.

The board and LGBTQ students and allies are now at odds with one another. The board claims the policy was developed to maintain fairness. The students believe it is discriminatory. With only two months away from LGBTQ Pride 2022, the students are adamant on demanding the board rescinds the anti-LGBTQ ban.

Luckily, the students had an ally in former Passaic board of education trustee Peter T. Rosario at Monday’s board meeting. He pleaded for a change along with the students who expressed their grievances to the trustees that night.

“Your job is not to hurt the kids, first and foremost,” Rosario said to the board. “There are hard decisions to make (as a board member). This is not one of them. Rescind the policy.”

The trustees listened but did not comment. Board President Christina Schratz would not predict the outcome of the discussion but said that the board “will continue the conversation about the policy.”

Journalist Chelsey Johnstone is the former Project Manager for Greater Trenton and was primary writer for TrentonDaily. She is a senior journalism major at Montclair State University and former communication and music student at Mercer County Community College. While attending her community college, Chelsey led her student newspaper, The College VOICE, as Editor-in-Chief. Now, Chelsey is working to advance her journalist skills freelancing for Out in Jersey Magazine and Unclear Magazine with the hope of positively impacting the world of reporting.