California school district adopts controversial policy aimed at pride flag

According to free speech experts, this policy is likely legal, so long as it does not infringe upon what students can wear.
Pride flag

A California school district banned the flying of any flag other than the United States or state flag, a move critics and supporters say is directed at the flying of the LBTQIA+ pride flag. In the same measure, Temecula Valley Unified School District also required that “Students not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance shall maintain a respectful silence.”

“No flag other than the United States of America and state of California may be displayed on school grounds, including classrooms, unless it is a country, state or United States military flag used solely for educational purposes within the adopted curriculum. Any other flag must be approved by the Superintendent or designee prior to displaying if, and only if, it is used for educational purposes and only during the related instructional period,” read the full section of the approved measure.

Love Bailey, a critic of the policy, told KTLA at the school district meeting adopting the policy, “It’s officially Transgender History Month in August. How will you teach that to the kids unless you display a trans flag? How, unless we embrace diversity, are we going to give our kids a good education moving forward?”

Milana Cubana, a supporter of the policy, also told KTLA, “We’re seeing a lot of activism in the classrooms. We’re seeing BLM flags, Pride flags, trans flags. And we’re not anti-LGBTQ, we’re not anti anything — but a classroom is not a place for [teachers’] political beliefs.”

According to free speech experts, this policy is likely legal, so long as it does not infringe upon what students can wear.

“The First Amendment bars the government from restricting others’ speech, but it doesn’t apply to the government’s own speech. A school district can speak on its own behalf and promote some views but not others,” said Aaron Terr, Director of Public Advocacy at free speech nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression in response to an inquiry from The Center Square. “As long as the policy applies only to flags that schools display on school grounds, it should pass constitutional muster. But if the district were to, say, restrict students from wearing clothing or displaying a patch that depicts a flag disfavored by the district, that would raise First Amendment issues.”

Temecula Valley was the second school in California to adopt such a flag measure, following the footsteps of Chino Valley Unified School District, which adopted a similar policy in June. Temecula and Chino Valley have both been at the center of state controversy, with Chino Valley having been sued for leading the adoption of parental notification policies for gender changes — a policy also adopted by Temecula Valley.

Temecula Valley received and acceded to a threat by Governor Gavin Newsom of a $1.5 million fine if it did not adopt a new state curriculum for 1st through 5th graders that included sections on gay rights. The school board had claimed that while it did not want to exclude LGBTQ history from all of K-12, including LGBTQ history in 1st through 5th-grade social studies classes would require having to explain sex and gender at an "inappropriate" age.