TRCS issues statement detailing Pride flag removal controversy, next steps

THREE RIVERS — In the wake of increased criticism following a highly-publicized decision by Three Rivers Community Schools to remove Pride flags from Three Rivers Middle School classrooms, there is now more information on what led up to the incident.

In a statement to the Commercial-News Wednesday, TRCS Interim Superintendent Nikki Nash said the situation also involved whether an after-school club was following Board of Education policy.

Nash said on Thursday, Nov. 18, an “external party” contacted the TRCS Board of Education, Middle School Principal Jason Bingaman and herself “questioning information shared within the school day,” which included an inquiry of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) after school club and pride flags within classrooms.

The Gay Straight Alliance is a club implemented this year at Three Rivers Middle School under the name of the Pride Coalition, which according to the GSA website helps “unite LGBTQ+ and allied youth to build community and organize around issues impacting them in their schools and communities.” In a post on the Three Rivers Middle School Facebook page from October, the school says the club also “provides students with a safe space to explore their identities, make friends and develop leadership skills.” It is a student-run group, with students in control of the topics and activities discussed, with two of the middle school’s guidance counselors acting as advisors.

In her statement, Nash said after talking with the external party, which she said in an interview Monday was a parent, there were internal discussions held with school officials regarding the matter, and Thrun Law Firm, the district’s attorneys, were consulted. Information was then shared with the Board of Education and Bingaman, who passed along the guidance via email.

In the email, obtained by the Commercial-News Monday, Bingaman wrote that “while I may personally stand behind you and your stance to have the flags up, this is something that I have to do until things get cleared up through Mrs. Nash.”

Nash said the district confirmed that the GSA club was able to continue their activities “as long as they continue to follow board policy.” As for the Pride flag removal, Nash said the removals are temporary, “until the Board of Education could carefully review this matter and gather additional facts.”

“TRCS continues to explore best ways to support all students, including the continuation of the GSA Club already established at TRMS,” Nash said. “TRCS appreciates all of the contributions of our staff and will continue to comply with its Board policies.  As we move forward, we are committed to providing a safe learning environment for all students and staff of TRCS.”

Nash said the ongoing process of reviewing the situation will include continued guidance with the district’s attorneys, a review of current board policies, as well as reaching out to other districts.

The incident is expected to be discussed at the Monday, Dec. 6 TRCS Board of Education meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at the district’s administrative offices at 851 Sixth Ave. A group that is against the decision to remove the Pride flags is planning to protest the decision prior to the meeting.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

Three Rivers Commercial-News

124 North Main Street
Box 130
Three Rivers, MI 49093

Telephone: 269-279-7488
Fax: 269-279-6007
General email: info@threeriversnews.com