Halifax has recently been embroiled in a controversy surrounding what kinds of signs and flags can be displayed in classrooms. Most recently, flags with vertical rainbow bars and PEACE emblazoned in big black bold letters across them were hung in the back of classrooms at Halifax Elementary School. The flags were removed after Principal Kayne Beaudry received complaints from parents who said they felt politically marginalized by the presence of the flags. Still, other parents wished to have different flags displayed in the classroom.
Silver Lake Superintendent Jill Proulx sent a letter home to caregivers stating, “Under equal access laws and regulations, we have to provide access to numerous points of view and cannot discriminate based on a particular viewpoint.” Moving forward, all flags and signs must be approved by the school administration prior to being displayed.
WBZ TV recently aired a piece on the controversy in town. Reporter Paul Burton interviewed Halifax Elementary School fifth grader Charlie Eldridge. Eldridge said that for him the flag represented “… that everyone should have peace and not be rude/mean.” He went on to say that the flag spoke to the need to just accept everyone for who they are. Parent Evan Smith told WBZ, “It’s simply encouraging love and kindness and I honestly don’t know why anyone would feel politically marginalized by that.”
A Change.org petition titled “Re-hang the Peace Flag at Halifax Elementary School” was started by Lana Eldridge and as of press time it has 5,727 signatures. The petition is aimed at Superintendent Proulx. The message on the petition says, “Please join me as I support my son, Charlie in his quest to get the Rainbow Peace flags re-hung at Halifax Elementary School. To encourage children to foster a community of love and acceptance is so important in today’s world. This flag represents us all on a human level. We should be celebrating each other, not fighting amongst ourselves!”
An event has been organized by Lori Costa-Cline and Jay Cline called Stand-Out PEACE for this Saturday in Halifax. A Facebook page has been started for the event. Organizers describe the event as, “a respectful public stand-out to promote peace and inclusion in our town and beyond.” The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with demonstrators lining up along the sidewalks at the intersection of Routes 106 and 58. While participants are asked to bring signs that promote peace and inclusivity, they have been asked not to bring signs that display broader political messages.
The flag in question was designed by artist Virginia Fitzgerald and features 10 vertical stripes of different colors and the word PEACE in black lettering. The red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple colors are representative of the rainbow flag originally designed by artist and activist Gilbert Baker in the late seventies for the LGBTQ community. The current iteration of the Pride flag actually features a few less stripes than Baker’s original.
The PEACE across the flag is reminiscent of the Italian peace flag first flown in 1961 in demonstrations against nuclear weapons. That flag has horizontal multi-colored bars and the word PACE, or peace in Italian, in white across it. In 2002, the flag was given new life as it was used in the campaign throughout Italy to protest the impending war in Iraq.
The current rainbow PEACE flag causing the controversy in Halifax has new colors added in skin tone shades to represent racial justice. The website commonstreet.org states, “The Rainbow Peace Flag Project seeks to extend kindness and caring across national borders, with love that includes people of all sexualities, genders, abilities, religions, races, and cultures, and to condemn acts of violence and hatred, embracing peaceful dialogue instead.”