Miami-Dade school board backtracks on classroom flag policy

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The Miami-Dade School Board reversed course on a policy that deals with displays of the American flag in the classroom and at schools.

In December, the school board unanimously voted in favor of a policy that generally addresses the issue of flags missing in classrooms throughout public schools.

But what some called “vague and confusing” wording in the policy created deep concerns the policy would limit free speech in the classroom by defining what flags could and could not be displayed.

Part of the language says: “…if deemed necessary, initiate rule making to amend relevant School Board Policies and procedures to afford instructional flexibility in the display of flags in the classroom where appropriate per curriculum…”

Those concerns were addressed after the board included an amendment that ensures “federally protected flags and classes may be visible as appropriate;…”

At Wednesday’s school board meeting, newly elected School Board Member Roberto Alonso proposed a brand new policy that does not mention the protected classes.

Alonso also shared new information he called alarming and a clear violation of school policy and state law.

“Eighty-seven schools with over 1000 classrooms without an American flag,” Alonso said.

Those are figures based on initial surveys Alonso said had gone out to schools.

Omitting an amendment that all school board members had previously agreed on surprised some school board members.

“The public at this particular time has not been noticed,” said School Board Member Steve Gallon, who mentioned possible violations of the Sunshine Law.

Members remained confused over one portion of the policy and after being asked to clear up the confusion, Alonso repeated, “I think my item is clear.”

“Stripping protections is never going to be something that I agree with…I think it’s dangerous and I think this item without the amendment is dangerous,” said Lucia Baez-Geller, another Miami-Dade School Board member in opposition who fears teachers will self-censor and be afraid of displaying a Cuban or rainbow flag.

“Now there is a chance that there is going to be confusion about what is and isn’t allowed to be displayed in the classroom,” Baez-Geller said. “And the stifling of freedom of speech and freedom of expression it really goes against everything that we stand for here in America.”

As for the problem itself, Miami-Dade Schools Deputy Superintendent John Pace said lack of flags was a shipping supply issue.

“Those flags were ordered…and they have been delivered,” Pace said.

On Wednesday, the school board’s five-member conservative majority voted in favor of sending the item to staff so they could bring back a plan to address the issue.

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.