Rainbow flags are flying at PVUSD schools this month. The colored bars represent different aspects of our LGBTQ+ community, that we come from all races and backgrounds, and that—despite differences in how those aspects intersect—we are all together. The Progress Flag, as it is officially known, was first raised at our sites on May 21, in honor of Harvey Milk Day. We fly the flag this month for Pride and will again on October 11 for National Coming Out Day.
Why does PVUSD fly this flag, in particular? What does it mean, not just for our PVUSD community but for our broader community? At our flag-raising ceremony at the district office last month, many people spoke about hope and inclusion. One staff member spoke about how PVUSD was the first district where they worked and could be out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community without fear of negatively impacting possibilities for career advancement. Students spoke about how school was a safe place to test the waters of coming out and how that gave them the courage to have that conversation with their loved ones.
For those of us within the LGBTQ+ community who grew up in times where this was an unspeakable aspect of who we are, this growing acceptance promises what our society could and may yet be. Like the rainbow, it is a promise that in spite of the heavy storm clouds still in the sky, there is the promise of light, growth, and a new realm of possibility. In Harvey Milk’s words, “Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right.”
For those of us who are allies of the LGBTQ+ community, this flag symbolizes that we are willing to put action behind words of acceptance. It also demonstrates that our PVUSD sites are a place of inclusion and safety. Furthermore, the flag shows that we recognize the differences and diversity of experiences within our entire community and the value of being welcome wherever we may go. Finally, the flag displays our willingness to see differences not as a threat but rather as an opportunity for learning and connection.
For those members of our wider community who may feel confronted by the flag, we understand. Facing assumptions and challenging long-held opinions and beliefs can be incredibly difficult. Most of us have faced the disorientation of cognitive dissonance at some point in our lives. However, accepting others does not mean losing our own beliefs and sense of self. Know that this flag is also an invitation to you. It is an invitation to see a new perspective, to join a world where who you are is not diminished by the diversity of those around you. It is an invitation to recognize that freedom granted to those in your community opens the doors to be free in your own life.
At PVUSD, we are accustomed to carving out places for innovation and beauty in an imperfect system. We know how to build towards what could be with the materials we have available. The Progress Flag is a visual representation that acceptance and inclusion create a strong foundation for the support structures helping our students reach their highest potential. Our promise does not end with one action but instead is an ongoing practice of creating the future we know is possible.
A humbling aspect of becoming a school board trustee is realizing how many different considerations go into every decision. This column is PVUSD’s community outreach to clarify how the board arrives at its decisions. Jennifer Holm is President of the PVUSD Board of Trustees and Jennifer Schacher is the Vice-President. Their views are her own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian. Contact Holm at [email protected] and Schacher at [email protected].