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UISD family speaks out after issue regarding political flags

A UISD family is speaking out, claiming the district is infringing on their daughter’s freedom of expression after being asked to take down a Trump 2020 flag that was visible during virtual class.
Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 9:55 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - A UISD family is speaking out after they claim the district is infringing on their daughter’s freedom of expression.

This 8th grader never thought the decorations inside her room would cause her school principal to call her parents.

“All of a sudden we get a phone call saying your flag to come down with claim saying that our flags were offensive," said Edwin Prew. “So I asked her in what shape or form are they offensive. And she said, ‘well, we had a parent complaint about your background that you have the American flag and you have the Donald Trump flag.’”

That two-flag display hangs right behind her while she attends virtual school.

The 8th grader’s father, Edwin Prew says his daughter has always had the U.S. flag on her wall, but just few days ago she decided to add a Trump 2020 flag as well, a flag similar to those found on campaign sites for sale.

That’s when Prew says he was told the flags violated school policy.

“The fact that it offends and it needs to be brought down, then we have a problem. You tell me how that’s offensive? Now if it were to say reelect Donald Trump, or vote for Trump then that would be a different story.”

Prew says he informed the principal that he would not be taking the flags down because one of them is the U.S. flag and the other he says simply shows support toward the current president.

“My daughter in no shape or form ever tried to persuade anyone to vote for Donald Trump, not in any way shape or form did she ever say Donald Trump is the best candidate, not in any way shape or form did she try her to impose her political view on to anybody. As far as distraction, anything can be a distraction if you think about it.”

In a statement UISD says it does not ask any of its families or students to take down any political signs or banners inside their home. Instead, it’s policy requests these items not be seen as the background during virtual class to prevent disruption.

The statement goes on to say:

"As a public education agency of Texas, it is the practice of UISD not to discriminate based on viewpoint, and to apply content-neutral rules and regulations that neither endorse nor oppose a particular viewpoint, lest there be a material or substantial disruption to the learning environment.

As such, UISD does not allow for its staff members or students to display political banners or social commentary in their classrooms due to the potential for a material or substantial disruption to the learning environment. The virtual classroom environment is currently an extension of the on-campus classroom environment. Thus, the District is asking that all students abide by the Virtual Classroom Conduct policy and make sure to face their cameras away from any portrayals of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, pornography, social commentary or slogans, or political banners or slogans due to the material or substantial disruption that could result, as it has in this instance. During instructional times, our students' focus should at all times be on the lesson being taught by their instructor and not on outside factors, unless the lesson or curriculum of the day requires it.

To be clear, the District is not asking any of its families or students to “take down” any political signs or banners that may be present in their own homes, as every citizen has the right to political expression in their own homes. We simply request that all student backgrounds while in the virtual environment be clear of any displays that could cause a substantial disruption to the learning environment.”

“If they are going to apply that towards us then obviously they are gonna have to apply across that board. I would hate for that to happen. They really can’t control what goes around in people’s houses. And I do understand because I do read the code of conduct. If something would be offensive like drugs, any pictures that are not decent, which is what should not be allowed."

Prew says as long as it’s not inappropriate a student should not be stopped form expressing themselves.

“I did contact our Republican Party and I have contacted the State Attorney General’s Office and we will take this further because there is simply an infringement to our rights.”

UISD says the situation is still currently under review.

Prew says he will also be filing a grievance to the UISD school board.

Copyright 2020 KGNS. All rights reserved.

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