PASSAIC — After Pride flags flew outside two of the city’s public schools in 2021, this year’s celebrations to support the LGBTQ community might be more low-key, under new flag restrictions adopted months ago.

Passaic Preparatory Academy raised a rainbow flag on June 1, becoming the first school in the district to do so.

Passaic High School followed suit with a virtual ceremony for students on June 23.

Five months later, an amended display policy — limiting flags outside city public schools to the American flag and the state flag — was adopted at the board of education's Nov. 22 meeting.

“This is the policy that was agreed upon by all in order to be consistent and equitable with any and all school clubs, for-profit or not-for-profit organizations, and/or community groups, in regards to requests for flag displays on school poles,” Passaic Board of Education Vice President Daniel Rodriguez said in his own, written response to New Jersey 101.5.

“All requests are treated the same. As a school and a Board, our policy does not prohibit celebrations and displays approved within the schools by the administration,” he continued.

The issue has been raised during public comments over the past two board meetings.

At a board meeting on Feb. 28, Passaic resident and public school teacher, Jesus Velez, asked board members to reconsider the policy, which he called an “effective ban” on the Pride flag.

In contrast, two religious leaders spoke at the same meeting, both against resuming such a public display during Pride month.

Pastor Harrison Sanchez of The Fountain Christian Church and Pastor Frank Seminerio of the Trinity Assembly of God both expressed concerns regarding the raising of the Pride flag in the City of Passaic, according to minutes of the session posted online.

Velez spoke again at Monday's board meeting, as reported by NJ.com, asking the board to reconsider the impact of the new flag restrictions on LGBTQ students and allies within the school community.

A few students also attended Monday's session and echoed Velez's concerns, according to the same report.

Pride at other NJ schools

The same year that Passaic did hold Pride flag ceremonies outside two of its public schools, there was a Lavender Graduation ceremony at Columbia High School, which serves students from Maplewood and South Orange.

The ceremony was described as one "held in many schools and communities across the country to honor and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, queer, asexual, intersex and allied students, and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions in school and community."

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

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