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Byron Public Schools district prohibits display of Ukrainian flag

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 10:45 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – A Byron Public Schools teacher is hoping the district changes its policy, so schools can display Ukrainian flags.

“Soon after the invasion of Ukraine, there were some students who I believe went to the principal asking if they could put something up,” said Justin Blom, a Byron teacher.

He said the superintendent and the school’s lawyers followed up with the group.

“In our opinion [they] used an overbroad interpretation of the policy. Meaning it was political and partisan in nature and didn’t allow the students to do that. And then furthermore asked the teacher who had the display of the Ukrainian flag on her door to take it down,” Blom said.

The superintendent, Mike Neubeck, referred KTTC to the district to Policy 505. It’s labeled: “Distribution of non-school-sponsored materials on school premises by students and employees.”

Within the policy, it states that students and staff have the right to express themselves but distributing non-school-sponsored material needs approval.

“It’s not about not supporting Ukraine and the people of Ukraine and what’s going on. It’s about if we were to say yes to one group, we have to say yes to another group,” Neubeck said. “We have worked with our attorneys and said well okay well, what about this type of situation? And our school board is going by their advice in saying we should not hang the flags.”

He said he encourages staff to talk with students about what’s happening in Ukraine, and if students wanted to be proactive in relief efforts they could do that as well. However, when it comes to displaying flags other than the U.S., it’s tricky.

“You have to realize that you are putting up a symbol in kind of a political situation where you take one side or the other,” Neubeck said.

“The crisis in Ukraine is not a political issue. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s a human rights issue. It’s a humanitarian issue,” Blom said.

The superintendent said the district will work with its lawyers, students, and staff to find a way to stand in solidarity without jeopardizing policies in place.

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