Worthington is one of the “Hometown Values & Vision” cities that we connected with in 2023, meeting with more than two dozen residents to learn about their concerns, as reported here. Stewart Chisham wrote in The Globe, which serves Worthington news, that the school board voted 4-1 to remove Puerto Rican and LGBTQ+ flags from a teacher’s classroom. This is an excerpt of the article.
The flags — one of the teacher’s home territory of Puerto Rico, and the other, a banner portraying the colors of the rainbow and the message, “Everyone is welcome here” — were deemed offensive by a parent, who took the issue to District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard shortly after the start of the 2023-24 school year.
Board member Erin Schutte Wadzinski asked for the reasoning behind removing the two flags, to which Landgaard responded, “They are deemed as a potential controversial topic or issue or item. And that’s where the complaint came from.”
When asked by Schutte Wadzinski if the complaint was just about the pride flag, Landgaard confirmed that was correct.
Schutte Wadzinski asked, “How is the Puerto Rican flag controversial?”
“It’s been a social issue of what has been controversial,” Landgaard responded, “I’m going to stop you a bit. I’m not on trial here. We made the decision. It’s your turn to make a decision.”
“In order to make a decision, I need to understand the administration’s reasoning behind this,” Schutte Wadzinski said.
“It’s not part of our curriculum, and that’s the other side of it,” Landgaard said. “It’s not curriculum. That’s what the decision is based on.”
“My line of questioning is to understand why not have these flags up? Or these posters on the walls? What’s wrong with them,” Schutte Wadzinski said. “If it’s a balancing test, I think there’s more good than harm being done to have something on the walls saying ‘everyone is welcome here.’”
“I think the appropriate flags should be the United States flag and the state of Minnesota flag,” Board Member Stephen Schneider said. “If we go to Iowa, I don’t expect them to be flying Minnesota flags. I don’t have anything against people wanting to bring their flags somewhere, but I think in a public building, the state flag and the U.S. flag are the ones we fly.”
“It doesn’t matter how I feel about this. I had several people say they were uncomfortable about a pride flag being flown. It’s not about what I think,” Lori Dudley said. “At this point, we have a complaint about a particular flag, not everyone is comfortable. It’s controversial in some people’s minds.”
“I feel like it’s a slam to me,” Adam Blume said. “I’ve been on the board for five years. We have given every tool possible to help support these kids, make them feel welcome, we probably aren’t perfect. I’m sure there are going to be people upset with this decision tonight, but deal with it. I’m ready to put it to bed.”
Ultimately, Blume, Schneider, Dudley and Board Chairman Joel Lorenz voted for the removal of the banner, while Schutte Wadzinski voted in opposition. Board members Matt Widboom and Tom Prins were not present for the vote.