On September 13, 2021, Dakota News Now reported that controversy erupted when a student was called to the principal’s office after questioning why a “pride” flag that supports LGBTQ issues was displayed in a Flandreau Public Schools classroom. A group of parents sent a letter to the school district’s Board of Education detailing an event involving the student. This student questioned why the flag was in the classroom when talking with friends but was then called to the principal’s office over the issue the next day, according to the letter. The letter is posted on the school district’s website for the September 2021 Board meeting.
Occurring in the 2021-2022 school year: A student made a statement of personal opinion to a group of friends regarding the LGBTQ/gay pride flag hanging in an adjoining classroom. The student was basically asking why that was hanging up and stating that it shouldn’t be there. Nothing was said by the classroom teacher at the time; however, the student was apparently overheard by another student outside the group.
The following day, the phone rang in the teacher’s classroom and the student was called into the principal’s office. The student was met by the principal and a counsellor, and was told that it had been brought to their attention that a comment had been made about a flag that was hanging in one of the tech rooms. The student was upset and surprised at being called into the principal’s office in front of the whole class, primarily because they didn’t really feel like they had done anything wrong.
The school district has a mental health website with a “June 2021 Family Newsletter” on the front page. The newsletter advises parents with “LGBTQ” children to “stay informed and use correct LGBTQ-related terminology.” The newsletter then states to ask these children what they would prefer to be called and specifically mentions “pronouns.”
The school district’s mental health website promotes Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and specifically links to the CASEL website. CASEL is known for using its material to promote racial equity in schools throughout the country. CASEL’s website explains that SEL is a tool used to advance equity in education among the issues of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation:
In the context of SEL, equity and excellence refers to every student—across race, ethnicity, family income levels, learning abilities, home language, immigration status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other factors—engaging in high-quality educational opportunities and environments that best promote their healthy social, emotional, and academic development.
The school district’s mental health website states that material from the organization Second Step is used for SEL when addressing students in elementary and middle school. Second Step states on its website that the organization is “committed to addressing racial injustice and helping you drive real change in your school communities.” The organization also provides resources for educators to implement equity into the classroom. Two of the resources that Second Step offers are called “Talking to Kids About Racial Identity” and “Starting in the Classroom.”
Second Step offers resources titled “Talking to Kids About Racial Identity” and “Starting in the Classroom.”
Second Step is operated by the group Committee for Children. The group states on its website that SEL “is fundamental to achieving social justice.” Committee for Children also has a policy brief document on its website titled “SEL and Racial Equity.” This policy brief advocates teaching “anti-racist education” and “black studies” in what appears to be an attempt to turn students into political activists. The policy brief specifically mentions that “social justice education can also promote equity across social identity groups, fostering a critical lens and encouraging social action.”