SALAMANCA — A community member asked Salamanca City School District officials what its policies are regarding flying flags on school grounds after he noted the United States and Seneca Nation flags were not raised on July 4, but a Progressive Pride flag was raised.
William Pierce, addressing the Board of Education earlier this month, referenced section 802 of state Education Law, which states that the U.S. flag must be flown on legal holidays. Pierce asked why the U.S. was not on its pole but the Pride flag was.
“I’m here (regarding) the underlying statement of the (Pride) flag, which contains sexuality,” he said. “Whatever the Pride flag has become, hiding behind Indigenous People or People of Color is not right.”
Pierce questioned whether the school adheres to New York state law and why the U.S. flag was not displayed on July 4.
Superintendent Robert Breidenstein noted there was an error on July 2 with a change in custodian staff, and the custodian working July 4 did not realize the U.S. and Seneca flags had not been raised.
“The student flag that you’re referencing is a student display,” he continued. “It’s part of the district but it is not a flag that is raised and lowered by the district. It’s supposed to be raised and lowered by the students, and in that particular case there were no students in session that day.”
Pierce then asked if there is a guideline for faculty and student interactions and social media. Breidenstein said the district has a policy for student-to-staff fraternization in school but the district does not have jurisdiction over staff media.
“I don’t want my kid and I don’t want another kid to fall into this trap of seeing alcohol, partying just because they’re friends with someone on social media,” Pierce said. “Can we not have some guidelines for what impressionable kids can see on a faculty member’s social media account?”
Pierce said flying the Pride flag should not be the flag to unite under as a community, saying bringing a social or political statement to a 9-year-old is wrong.
“I believe, honestly, the Pride flag should be taken down. It should not be a topic of discussion for any age kids in this school,” he added.
Dr. Mark Beehler, deputy superintendent, said independent of what other flag is flying, if the U.S. flag is not flying then no other flag should be, which he said was an error on the district’s part.
“We had a student government flagpole installed,” Beehler said. “We did not formalize the communication of who was putting that flag up and who was taking it down.”
Beeler said there are many veterans working in the district, which is something the district takes pride in. He said it’s also important that the students know the flag code.
In regard to social media, Beehler said while the district does not have control over staff members’ posts, the district does have certain professional expectations for staff.
In another matter, board member Theresa Ray was once again elected president of the board, a position she has held since 2015.
She was first elected to the board in 2009.
“I am very honored and I do take pride in that, and I always do try to do the best for the school that I possibly can,” Ray said.
Kerry John, who was first elected to the board in 2015, was elected vice president during the board’s reorganizational meeting earlier this month.
Board member Dale Colton was sworn in for a second five-year term after a successful unopposed re-election in May. He was first elected in 2016 and is expected to serve through 2026.
“It is a long time, and it’s nice that we’re all committed and that when you re-up it shows how much you’re dedicated to this school district,” Ray said.
The other board members congratulated Ray, John and Colton as well.
Board member Meghan McCune announced she will be exiting from the school board in August because she has accepted a job in Michigan.