Watch: Community Signals Support to Youth after School Board Bans Flags

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday August 23, 2021

After an Oregon school board voted to ban Pride flags and BLM banners, community members decided to take action.

The board voted 4-3 to ban the flags on August 10, local NBC affiliate KGW8 reported, despite testimony offered from a Black mother about her son being called the N-word at school.

The board's vice chair, Brian Shannon, declared that the ban was intended to "get political symbols and divisive symbols out of our schools," the news channel said.

But local farmer Jaybill McCarthy and his wife, Erin, decided that if symbols of inclusivity were going to be banned at the school, they were going to create a visual reminder of support on their own land: A large plywood sign, painted to look like a Progress Pride flag and situated where students at the local high school could look up and see it, NBC News reports.

Jaybill McCarthy told the local news channel that his decision was a response to what felt, to him, like a message that said: "We're gonna erase a bunch of people."

When the McCarthys went on to social media with their idea, they "received hundreds of responses, with people donating money for materials," KGW8 reported.

The donations also took the form of helping hands when "a small group of strangers arrived to help the couple build and paint the flag," the news report said. The plywood construction is a massive 17 x 30 feet.

"I wish it could be ten times bigger," Erin McCarthy told KGW8, noting that volunteers arrived from "all over," including the city of Portland.

KGW8 noted that the "Progress Pride flag, originally designed by an Oregonian, represents the LGBTQ community, with colors to also represent people of color."

The McCarthys weren't the only local residents who took action following the school board's vote. A 2015 graduate of Newberg High School, Amanda Boothby, who says she is a lesbian, "organized a peaceful protest in the center of Newberg for Tuesday, Aug. 24," KGW8 reported in a followup article.

Opposition in Oregon to LGTBQ+ people has led to attempts at banning acknowledgement of their existence in the past, KGW8 noted.

"In the 90s and 2000s, a man named Lon Mabon fought for Oregon Measure 9, which aimed to ban schools from even mentioned homosexuality, lumping it together with pedophilia," the news channel recalled.

"Some in Newberg's School Board meeting made a similar argument against Pride flags, saying they show support for 'deviants.' "

The McCarthys rejected the idea that symbols like the Pride flag are "political," KGW8 reported. "It's not expressing a Democratic idea or Republican idea or conservative or liberal," Erin McCarthy opined. "It's human beings."

Husband Jaybill said: "It's recognition that people exist."

The ban has yet to be reviewed by lawyers for the school board, KGW8 noted, but the Oregon ACLU is "considering a legal challenge if the ban moves forward," the news channel said.

Watch the KGW8 news clip below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.