ATHENS, Ga. — Artwork celebrating the LGBTQ community created by a student at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School in Clarke County was taken down from a classroom and compared to a Nazi flag Friday, according to parents.
Parents claimed a teacher at the school was showcasing students' art when administrators allegedly asked for one piece to be removed after a parent complaint. The artwork features a rainbow with the words, "Gay is OK" written underneath an umbrella. When the teacher questioned the decision, parents claimed an administrator allegedly compared the art to hanging a Nazi flag in the classroom.
Some parents whose children attend Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary said they are concerned about how this situation and others have been handled.
"There are ongoing complaints about this current administration has been discriminatory against women, being discriminatory against LGBTQ people, being discriminatory against English language learners or emerging bilinguals, emerging multilingual and Spanish speakers. So we have seen a pattern of inequity at our school and we have been asking for support at this point for years," said Jemelleh Coes, a parent and professor at the University of Georgia.
Some teachers at the school expressed their disagreement with the recent comments made. 11Alive received a statement from a current teacher at the school who wished to remain anonymous:
On behalf of a majority of the staff at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School, we are disheartened that these words and actions have happened in our school building during this time. This does not represent why we chose this profession, and it does not represent the feelings, beliefs, values, and attributes our amazing school family has within these four walls. We are disheartened that there has been no action taken by CCSD or our building administration to rectify the divide that has been caused. We will continue to seek resolution and promote a community of love, acceptance, and tolerance within our building and community.
Parents like Coes want action.
"Nothing has been done and that is part of the problem and that is why we are finally at a place like this. Enough is enough," Coes said.
Other parents like Gee Campbell, a transmasculine non-binary parent whose two children attend Oglethorpe, found the comments hurtful on a personal level.
"I have two children who attend OAES. We’ve been part of this school community for four years. My experiences with the teachers in regards to my transitioning have always been positive and respectful. My daughter is in this classroom and my immediate thought was 'What message does this give my daughter about her family?'" Campbell said.
The Clarke County School District released a statement on Jan. 26 addressing the comments made.
Dear Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary Community,
I write this letter to acknowledge a situation at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary that has caused a great deal of anger and frustration in our community.
It has been alleged that a piece of student artwork was compared to Nazi symbolism. We have investigated the situation and are working to address the issues with all parties involved. To be clear, we condemn this comparison and discrimination in all its forms.
The Clarke County School District embraces diversity and inclusion for all students and staff. We stand with our LGBTQIA+ community and are dedicated to proving our commitment to diversity and inclusion.
To that end, we will continue having sensitive and appropriate conversations with our school communities.
Since the incident, Athens Pride has posted on their social media accounts raising awareness on the issue and asking people to donate to help LGBTQ people in need.
In a statement, the group said "all forms of hate should have no home here in Athens - especially in our public schools."
Athens Pride is appalled to hear of the actions that transpired at a local elementary school. Our organization is committed to providing resources and support to LGBTQ+ students, parents, and community members- especially now. We are in contact with all parties involved, who at this time request privacy. We will keep the community updated on further information as it becomes available. We are reminded today that our school, city, and people have a lot of work to do to create true safe spaces for our children. Homophobia, Anti-semitism, and all forms of hate have should have no home here in Athens - especially in our public schools.”
Editor's note: This story has been updated to title those who parents claim are involved as administrators.