Middle schoolers in Massachusetts have found themselves accused of “intolerance and homophobia” following their opposition to a Pride celebration at their school. The incident took place at Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington, where a school-approved spirit day celebrating Pride Month was organized by the Spectrum Club, an LGBT club for students and allies. Some students expressed their dissent by wearing red, white, and blue clothing, chanting “U.S.A. are my pronouns,” and removing LGBT-themed banners and stickers.
While certain parents were upset by the display, others argued that it was inappropriate for the school to encourage children to wear rainbow-themed attire. One parent, Christine Steiner, shared that her daughter simply chose not to wear such clothing and did not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings. However, the incident sparked controversy within the community, leading to discussions about hate, intolerance, and free expression.
Burlington Equity Coalition co-Chair Nancy Bonassera labeled the students’ actions as “intolerance and homophobia,” deeming them unacceptable and claiming that they impacted the entire community. She called on Burlington town leadership to take a firm stance against hate disguised as free expression.
In response to the incident, Burlington Public Schools Superintendent Eric Conti condemned the protesting students in a letter to parents. He acknowledged that the school community had experienced intolerance and highlighted the optional nature of event participation. Conti recognized the complexity of discussions surrounding identity and individual values but emphasized the importance of standing against homophobia and creating a safe and inclusive environment for all students.
Principal Cari Perchase also expressed apologies to parents and students, characterizing the Pride event as a “day of intolerance.” She suggested implementing a program aimed at teaching tolerance and acceptance to the students. The incident has sparked ongoing conversations about the balance between free expression, individual values, and fostering a welcoming atmosphere in schools.