Students at Annandale High School staged a walkout in response to district officials pushing back on LGBTQ+ signs hanging inside the school.
The signs in question were created by the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, a student group that aims to provide safe and inclusive spaces for those who are looking for support.
Freshman Landon Nelson told Bring Me The News the signs were created months ago to make LGBTQ+ students feel welcomed, but said district leaders called the signs "too political"
Nelson said the signs came about because LGBTQ+ students were experiencing verbal abuse about their sexual orientation or gender.
The "safe space" signs see the high school's mascot logo superimposed over a rainbow background. Nelson said teachers could hang them in their classrooms if they wished, but were "never pressured to do so."
"These signs made LGBTQ+ students feel safe and welcomed, and they allowed students to know which teachers or staff they could go to when they needed someone to talk with," Nelson said.
Nelson claims that Superintendent Tim Prom told him the signs don't represent "other minorities such as students in poverty or students with parents going through a divorce," and said the school was looking to remove and replace them.
He says alternative posters were proposed that would replace the rainbow with the school's colors and replacing the words "Safe Space" with "All Are Welcome."
The school says it did not order the signs be removed, but the district did acknowledge that its attorneys felt that LGBTQ+ was a "political topic" and has been seeking a more "inclusive" alternative.
About 50 students and community members joined in the walkout on Wednesday, the first day of Pride Month.
The group marched to the district office around 12:20 p.m. Nelson claims the walkout ended with school staff asking those who participated in the walkout to take pride-related apparel off, "without any reason," according to Nelson.
Steve Sherber, Principal at Annandale High School, provided the following statement provided to Bring Me The News:
"During our ongoing discussions with our student GSA group, some students let us know that they intend to conduct a walk out today. The District supports these students’ rights under the First Amendment to speak and gather peacefully and safely. The School District supports our GSA students and we want to continue the dialogue and work with our entire student population so that all students are safe and welcomed.
"One issue that we’ve been discussing is a Safe Space sign. Those signs have not been removed from our Schools. We have been discussing a more inclusive message for signage in our classrooms with this group but no decisions have been reached with the GSA, other student groups, and staff as of now.
We take any concerns of harassment brought to our attention, very seriously and act promptly to correct any misbehavior.
We are working with a consulting firm to gain more education and training on equity for our students and staff which will be key to continue moving all of us forward.
"The Safe Space signs have not come down and they will not come down until we reach a consensus with all student groups that the district represents."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been edited to reflect the correct name of the principal of Annandale High School.