Roanoke County teacher asked to remove “All are safe in VA” sticker from office

Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 6:06 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke County’s classroom display policy was brought up again at Thursday night’s school board meeting.

The policy was passed unanimously by the Roanoke County School Board in July. It focused on the decorations that teachers are allowed to have in their classrooms. (See the full decor policy below this article.)

The document states the purpose of the policy as, “Classroom decor and displays are intended to support the curriculum and learning objectives of Roanoke County Public Schools and contribute to a learning environment in which all students are valued and supported, regardless of their beliefs about political views, sociopolitical issues, religion, or their status as a member of any protected class of individuals as enumerated in state and federal law and School Board policies.”

It all started in a May school board meeting where several parents complained to the board about rainbow-patterned items in classrooms.

The new policy says in part, “A sticker, sign, flag, or other display hung by a teacher may be intended to show support and affinity for a subset of students, but it can unintentionally imply that other teachers who do not display such messages or symbols in their classroom do not support inclusion for all their students.”

During Thursday night’s school board meeting, we heard from a teacher for the first time since the classroom display policy was implemented. She said she was asked to remove a sticker that had the words “All are safe in VA” from her office.

“I believe that all students should feel safe in Virginia schools. My motivation for this is because I believe this in my heart,” said the teacher during the meeting. “By stating this - I want to be clear that I am not trying to covert or indoctrinate anyone into anything. But that I want students and educators to feel loved, seen, heard, and safe because I value you as a human.”

The teacher did clarify her thoughts were her own as a citizen, parent, and educator. She said they were not representative of her professional career or the school where she is employed.

“Just because I’m a Christian, heterosexual biracial woman does not mean that I’m trying to convert anyone to be a Christian, heterosexual, a woman or biracial. I am simply comfortable acknowledging that people are different. Maybe you are not a natural blonde, and you dye your hair because you see yourself as a blonde, maybe you’re quite pale and you visit tanning facilities because you feel comfortable being tan. Maybe you enjoy wearing makeup, maybe you’re a trans person, maybe you like to wear jeans to work. All of these things are your business and have no impact on how you as a person deserve to be seen and treated. This community is not about the majority, but it is about all. Every student and family and educator deserves to feel heard, seen and have their needs equally represented. Sometimes people struggle to see the point in living, especially students who could could be at a very vulnerable point in their life. Sometimes you might be you might feel like life is soul crushing, and that the world would be better off without you and maybe you’re looking for a sign to hold on and to continue. This is your sign and these words are for you. Be brave and continue,” added the teacher during the meeting.

The policy does have exceptions like promoting school rules and patriotism.

During the July meeting, Superintendent Ken Nicely said “Classroom decor and displays are intended to support the curriculum and learning objectives of Roanoke County Public Schools, and contribute to a learning environment in which all students are valued and supported.”