- This is what we'd call excellent teaching.
Today is Bisexual Visibility Day, so what better day to share the heartwarming story of resourceful teacher, Jennifer Leja.
Leja teaches 7th and 8th grade in the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada. She says she’s the only openly LGBTQ teacher at the school. Until recently, she had a rainbow pride flag in her classroom. It was a way of sending a welcoming signal out to students and encourage debate.
However, as she told Buzzfeed, she was recently instructed to remove the flag following the issue of new guidelines. These state, “any signage that is displayed on District property that is, or becomes, political in nature must be removed or covered.”
Leja queried is this included LGBTQ issues. She received an email back, which she shared with Buzzfeed, stating that it did.
Pride flag banned from classroom
“The courts have held LGBTQ+ issues to be political speech and thus, the rainbow flag [is considered] to be political speech, so it cannot be expressed through clothing and other means, such as displaying a flag in your class,” she was instructed by school Washoe County School District trustee, Andrew Caudill.
Leja does not see the pride flag as “political” or “partisan”. She wants to continue to send a message out to students struggling with their identity. Therefore, she has found other ways to bring rainbows into her classroom, whether via social distancing tape, multi-colored wording on the walls, or even face masks.
Leja posted a TikTok video to demonstrate. It quickly went viral.
@mslejaMy response to this new requirement 😂 ##tiktokteacher ##middleschool ##teachersoftiktok ##lgbt ##lgbtqteacher♬ original sound – Jenn Leja
School district response
Caudill told Buzzfeed, “It is inappropriate for the District as a government entity to select only speech it agrees with. As a result, it is in the best interests of our learning communities to ask staff to refrain from all single-issue political speech.
“But I want to be abundantly clear, the policy does not require staff to hide their own sexuality. Teachers can let students know their sexuality, or mention their significant others, if they wish, regardless of sexuality. The policy does not impact who a teacher is, it only impacts the advocacy for a specific political position.”