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Brian McGahren: 'Students, teachers and staff ... do not cease being who they are once they cross the school threshold.'

In the "My View" column of Oct. 21, 2021, ("'Identity politics' don't belong in schools"), Tiffany Jacob has, in my opinion, misunderstood the purpose of the BLM and Pride flags which were briefly displayed in that Newberg school, before being yanked away, with future displays being banned.

Refer to the commentary by Tiffany Jacob originally published online Oct. 18, 2021.

Students, teachers and staff alike do not cease being who they are once they cross the school threshold. Teachers, especially, do their best to treat their students equally and make them feel equally valued.

Unfortunately, the Newberg school board seems to feel differently.

According to a lawsuit filed against the Newberg school district by the teachers union, one middle school principal told the staff at a meeting: "I don't want any of you telling students it's OK to be gay or trans. If you have a problem with that, you can come talk to me."

Who people are, coupled with their life experiences, cannot be left at the door, and to say that schools are only there to "teach basic skills … such as reading, writing and math," fails to recognize that life just is not, and has never been, that simple.

Besides, is it not the school's responsibility to provide a safe place for learning these "basic skills," without feeling the stigma of the administration's prejudice?

Ms. Jacob says that "identity politics," as she calls it, "places undue importance on racial and sexual identities" and creates a divide. She says we all must "unite under one flag, the American flag." My guess is that she is white, heterosexual, and has few, if any, close friends who are persons of color, or from the LGBTQ+ community.

If she truly wants everyone to "unite", she must recognize that "American" comes in all colors, genders, faiths, etc., and so on, and that room is available under that flag for all these people to just be themselves. Being American is not "one size fits all."

Flying the BLM and Pride flags simply shows support for those students, and yes, teachers and staff, who are Black, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous, etc., and/or LGBTQ+ because while we live in a great nation, from its founding, its leaders, and the white population, over time, has enslaved, badly mistreated and discriminated against fellow Americans who come from these communities.

Today, too many otherwise loyal Americans, many in positions of authority, still vehemently resist recognizing that the mechanisms and the effects of this mistreatment continue to adversely affect members of these communities today.

These flags do not supersede, and never will supersede the American flag, because those who fly these flags never intended them for that purpose. They are equally proud Americans who are just reminding their fellow Americans that they have a right, as Americans, to openly be just who they are, without fearing for their safety, or the safety of those they love. It is just that simple.

Brian McGahren is a Tigard resident.


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