NORTH LOGAN, Utah — The Cache County School District responded Wednesday to reports a pride flag was removed during Diversity Week at Ridgeline High School in Millville, Utah.
Multiple people shared video of the event with KSL NewsRadio. It appears to show a student removing the pride flag to the cheers and laughter of other students. The removal of the pride flag took place Tuesday, April 13, 2021, during a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) event at Ridgeline.
Millville Mayor David Hair decried the situation in an interview with Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News on KSL NewsRadio.
“I think any time anybody pulls something down that is important to another individual, it – we’re saddened by it,” Hair said. “I hope that at least the people in the community can rally around those that have been affected by it or hurt by it.”
Cache County School District responds
In a statement, the district described the person who removed the flag as a student, unaffiliated with the GSA event.
“Neither the school nor the school district condones the insensitive and disrespectful removal of the flag, which was done without permission,” the district wrote in its statement. “In fact, this took place during Ridgeline’s Diversity Week, which is held with the intention to create awareness and celebrate the diversity of students, as well as increase inclusion among the Ridgeline student body.
“This type of incident reminds us of the importance of continually educating students, not just during a Diversity Week, on the importance of respecting one another and the right to attend school, participate in events, and learn in a safe and respectful school environment.”
This is absolutely disgusting to see cheering students as a Pride flag is cut down. Ridgeline High School in Millville, Utah, this is so disappointing, and will hurt so many of your LGBTQ+ students. @Ridgeline_Hawks pic.twitter.com/7XfT77BoKu
— Tasteless Calvin (@Calvin_Bobo) April 14, 2021
Community speaks out against Ridgeline pride flag removal
Comments on a Ridgeline High School Facebook post about its diversity week plans quickly turned to the removal of the flag on Tuesday, April 14.
“Don’t pat yourselves on the back for simply instituting a ‘diversity week’ when the students participating in it have zero understanding of what it means to respect diversity,” one person wrote. “My heart hurts for the members of the student body and faculty who feel unsafe and ridiculed in your school.”
“Many of your LGBTQ students don’t feel safe to go to school tomorrow,” wrote another, referring to Wednesday, the day after the removal of the pride flag at Ridgeline.
“Please discipline the students involved in cutting down the pride flag at your school and please institute diversity education for your students. What happened at your school is absolutely unacceptable,” wrote a third.
Sheriff’s Office responds to planned rally
The Cache County Sheriff’s Office released a statement in response to a planned rally at Ridgeline on Wednesday, asking those in attendance to stay on public walkways and remain respectful.
Lt. Mikelshan Bartschi told KSL NewsRadio the sheriff’s office became involved for traffic control and safety, not because they believed violence would ensue at the demonstration.
“We were made aware via social media that there was a group of planning to come out and show their support for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Bartschi. “With that being the case, we were already concerned about traffic, and just normal school-related issues with kids getting out,” he added.
From Bartschi’s perspective at the time of the interview, he witnessed around 40-60 people at the rally.
‘Not… considered criminal in our realm’
The cutting of the LGBTQ flag had people questioning if the action could be considered a hate crime. Bartschi said there’s a possibility, but it wouldn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office.
“Our understanding with the juvenile justice reform is issues like that [cutting of the pride flag] are meant to be handled in an educational environment by education used for education,” explained Bartschi. “That’s not something that would be considered criminal in our realm.”
KSL asked if the juvenile could face prosecution for a hate crime in Utah.
“For the state of Utah? No. That would clearly fall, again, right back into our justice reform,” said Bartschi.
But, with Utah’s limited laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from hate crimes, criminal charges would not likely come from the state level. Most hate crimes trigger an FBI investigation.
“If someone chose to pursue it federally, they could end up looking at that,” added Bartschi.
Millville Mayor and Utah Pride Center react
Millville’s Mayor, David Heir said he wasn’t happy when he saw the video.
“I think anytime anybody pulls something down that is important to another individual, it — we’re saddended by it,” he told Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News.
Heir was asked why the kids were laughing in the video at the flag being cut down.
“I think we were all teenagers at one time, and unfortunately we do things that sometimes seem funny at the time but then when the aftermath comes we realize we shouldn’t have done that,” he said.
The Utah Pride Center Board Chairman Chris Jensen said it’s a sad situation.
“When I saw the video, I wondered if this kid that was doing this fully understand the harmful impact this could have on queer students in Millville,” he said.
Jensen added that LGBTQ students might not be feeling safe after seeing the video. He wants them to know that the Utah Pride Center supports them, they they should reach out to allies, and make sure school officials like principals and teachers are watching for these kinds of things.
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