After the Temecula Valley Unified School District approved a controversial flag ban policy on campuses, one student protested the new rule by handing out hundreds of Pride flags to classmates.

The move has now sparked a campaign to support Moxxie, a 16-year-old junior at Great Oak High School in Temecula, with people donating Pride flags, pins and stickers to the teen.

After a 3-2 approval on Sept. 12, only state and U.S. flags can be displayed at schools within the district. All other flags would require the superintendent’s approval.

Some critics believe the new policy will be used to censor LGBTQ+ support and target pride flags.

Following the decision, Moxxie, has been handing out Pride flags and stickers at his school. Despite being a standout AP student, Moxie said he doesn’t feel very supported by his school district.

  • Pride flags being handed out by Moxxie, a 16-year-old high school student in Temecula, to his classmates in protest of the school district’s flag ban policy. (KTLA)
  • Pride flags being handed out by Moxxie, a 16-year-old high school student in Temecula, to his classmates in protest of the school district’s flag ban policy. (Moxxie)
  • Pride flags being handed out by Moxxie, a 16-year-old high school student in Temecula, to his classmates in protest of the school district’s flag ban policy. (Moxxie)
  • Pride flags being handed out by Moxxie, a 16-year-old high school student in Temecula, to his classmates in protest of the school district’s flag ban policy. (Moxxie)
  • Pride flags being handed out by Moxxie, a 16-year-old high school student in Temecula, to his classmates in protest of the school district’s flag ban policy. (Moxxie)
  • Pride flags being handed out by Moxxie, a 16-year-old high school student in Temecula, to his classmates in protest of the school district’s flag ban policy. (Moxxie)

“There’s always that risk of being unsafe when you’re part of a marginalized community like the LGBTQ community, especially when you’re so vocal about it,” he said. “The Pride flag, to me, symbolizes being allowed to be who you are, that sense of community.”

While no text in the policy specifically mentions banning Pride flags on school campuses, members of the LGBTQ+ community believe the ban is a broader and targeted attack on LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools. 

Some expressed their opposition to the Pride flag during the Sept. 12 school board meeting. A large showing of parents, teachers, students and community members gathered to discuss the policy as tensions flared at times.

Members who supported the policy told KTLA they believed Pride flags, or any other types of flags, should not be flown on school campuses.

“We’re seeing a lot of activism in the classrooms,” said Milana Cubana, a supporter of the flag policy. “We’re seeing BLM flags, Pride flags, trans flags and we’re not anti-LGBTQ, we’re not anti-anything but a classroom is not a place for your personal political beliefs.”

But Moxxie argues there’s nothing political about taking pride in one’s identity, especially when all anyone wants to feel is safe and included.

“I think it’s okay for teachers to have flags up because it lets the kids know that this is a safe space,” he said.

The Temecula school board also rejected another resolution that would have affirmed a ban on bullying and harassment based on sexual and gender identity.

Last month, the Temecula school district board considered a policy that would notify parents if their child identified as transgender. That school board also came under fire for rejecting a state-approved social studies book and curriculum over the inclusion of gay rights leader Harvey Milk and coverage of LGBTQ+ figures in history. 

The move prompted backlash from local leaders including Gov. Gavin Newsom who promised a $1.5 million fine as failure to adopt the curriculum was a violation of state law. The school board later voted to approve the curriculum, avoiding the fine.

When asked why Moxxie believes taking pride in one’s LGBTQ+ identity bothers some people, he said, “Some people feel threatened by the concept of things that aren’t considered normal to them. Things that they don’t like or that they believe aren’t okay. Just a lot of people are threatened by that.”

To those people Moxxie just wants them to know that “I’m not a threat and that I have a right to exist just as much as everyone else. People can exist differently than your beliefs.”

Moxie said he and other classmates are planning a walkout in protest of the flag policy and the district’s anti-LGBTQ+ policies on Friday morning. 

School officials have threatened disciplinary action for students who choose to participate in the walkout.

These controversial school board decisions concerning the LGBTQ+ community in Southern California and across the country are coming amid a rise in attacks against the community.

According to a recent “State of Pride Report” issued by California’s Attorney General, hate crimes targeting California’s gay community rose by 29% in 2022 in comparison to the previous year.

The report also found that LGBTQ+ children are victimized and bullied at rates four times higher than non-LGBTQ+ children, and nearly half of all gay youth seriously considered suicide in 2022.

According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ children are four times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental distress, call or text 9-8-8. The line is open 24 hours a day. For more information on the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, visit 988lifeline.org.

A statement from the Temecula Valley Unified School District on the planned walkout said in part:

“Some students began circulating this information last week in response to some updated policies and regulations that were recently approved by the TVUSD Governing Board. Site leadership has met with a few student leaders to gain further insight regarding the plan for a potential walkout.

We want to stress that we discourage students from leaving campus whenever possible during instructional time for safety purposes. However, we also recognize that each family will engage in conversations with their own students about these issues. As a reminder, there are other ways that students participate in the democratic process and have their important individual voices heard without walking out of class, leaving campus, and potentially putting themselves in danger.”