Signs supporting many student groups taken down at Waukesha schools – Wisconsin Examiner – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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Sign supporting disabled students removed from Waukesha classroom | photo courtesy of Alliance for Education in Waukesha
Sign supporting disabled students removed from Waukesha classroom | photo courtesy of Alliance for Education in Waukesha

A sign promoting the civil rights of disabled students was removed from a classroom in  a Waukesha school during winter break, following a directive from the Waukesha school administration instructing custodial staff to take down signs it deemed examples of prohibited political activism. The sign shows an Asian American kid in a T-shirt with the words “Disabled & Proud.” The caption reads “We, the Future, are Building Disability Justice.”

At a Jan. 4 school board meeting, high school student Samuel D’Amico stated that signs were taken down at West High School that are clearly protected under state and federal law. If any signs are allowed to be displayed for any approved student group, all signs for all approved groups must be allowed. But at West, signs for the Hispanic Club, Black Student Union, Gay-Straight Alliance and the Equity and Equality Club were removed.

In August, Waukesha school officials banned all political signs displayed in district schools. Originally the prohibition was directed at racial conflicts and targeted primarily with Black Lives Matter and the pro-police, The Thin Blue Line flags and posters. The ban then expanded to  include signs for LGBTQ students.  

A Dreamer sign taken down at Waukesha South High School | Photo courtesy of the Alliance for Education in Waukesha
A sign supporting Dreamers that was taken down at Waukesha South High School | Photo courtesy of the Alliance for Education in Waukesha

The disability justice sign that was removed over winter break was one of several posted in a single classroom that  advocated social justice. Rather than picking and choosing which signs should stay and which signs should be taken down, a custodian took down all signs in the classroom including the one supporting disability rights.  

School administrators later returned the disability justice sign  to the teacher and confirmed that taking down the sign was a mistake. D’Amico stated that a public address message at West announced that the sign was taken down in error.

The prohibition of the LGBTQ signage was never codified in writing according to Laura Pinsoneault, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Education in Waukesha, a citizen group that is challenging the ban on signs.

School board members noted at a November meeting  that since the ban on signs went into effect, conflicts and incidents of bullying have increased.  Taking down signs supporting racial minorities and LGBTQ students could be interpreted by some students as a green light  to disparage  students who are part of marginalized groups. And those students say they have  become targets of bullying. The district, they told the school board, is enabling a culture of bullying.

Suspended teacher will not back down

A rainbow chain similar to one removed from a classroom in Waukesha | Photo by Terrence Falk
A rainbow chain similar to one removed from a classroom in Waukesha | Photo courtesy of Alliance for Education in Waukesha

Sarah Whaley, special education kindergarten teacher at Summit View Elementary, was given a one-day suspension on Dec. 8 for flying a rainbow Pride flag in her classroom in support of LGBTQ students.  She had been repeatedly told to take down the flag but she refused. When she returned


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