California’s statewide teachers’ union has expressed strong criticism of the Chino Valley Unified School board’s decision to only allow government flags on school property. In a letter sent on June 27, the California Teachers Association, which has over 300,000 members, along with local union Associated Chino Teachers, argued that this decision violated teachers’ right to free speech under the First Amendment, as well as state employment laws.
The Chino Valley Unified School board voted 4–1 on June 15 to restrict the display of flags on school property to only the California and U.S. flags. The teachers’ union argues that this policy change was made without proper notice or the opportunity for negotiations with the local union.
In the letter, the union demanded that the board reverse its policy by July 3 or face legal action. It stated that if the board continued to interfere with the constitutional rights of district employees, the union would pursue legal remedies, such as filing a lawsuit in Superior Court or lodging an unfair practice charge with the Public Employee Relations Board.
Chino Valley Unified School district Board President Sonja Shaw revealed that administrators had reached out to the local union to discuss their concerns about the flag policy after it was first proposed on June 1. However, the administrators did not meet with the union until June 28, almost two weeks after the policy was approved by the board.
Shaw characterized the letter from the teachers’ union as a “bullying tactic” and stated that she was prepared for any legal action that the unions might take. She believed that the focus of teachers’ unions should be on student academic issues rather than engaging in conflicts over flag policies. Shaw emphasized that the flag issue was distracting from more important matters, such as learning loss and mental health issues.
The majority of parents and residents who voiced their opinions supported the flag policy, according to Shaw. She also argued that the letter demonstrated that teachers’ unions were prioritizing their own agendas instead of serving the community.
During the board meeting where the policy was discussed, Shaw pointed to the American flag, emphasizing its unifying symbolism. She expressed concerns about teachers bringing their sexuality into the classroom and indicated that this was problematic as a parent and board member. The meeting drew a large audience of nearly 300 parents, teachers, and community members.
Some supporters at the meeting commended the board for addressing the complex issue and argued that displaying flags representing a minority group in the district went against the principle of equality. They compared the flag policy debate to previous controversies around removing Bibles, prayer, and the Ten Commandments from classrooms and emphasized the importance of the stars and stripes as a unifying symbol for all students.
Others, however, expressed worries that the flag policy would create an unsafe environment for LGBT students. They argued that Pride flags offered a sense of hope and safety, reminding students that they were not alone in their struggles.
It is worth noting that the Chino Valley Unified School board’s decision is not an isolated incident. Other local governing boards in Orange County, including the Orange Unified School Board and the city of Huntington Beach, have also voted this year to restrict flag displays on official or district property to government flags.
The outcome of this conflict between the teachers’ union and the Chino Valley Unified School board remains uncertain. The board now faces the choice of reversing its policy to avoid legal action or defending its decision in court. Ultimately, the resolution of this dispute will carry significant implications for the rights of teachers and the inclusivity of school environments.