Something is afoul in Cass County.
Russell Ball, a physical education and health teacher at Three Rivers Middle School, walked off the job in the middle of the school day Monday after school officials told him to remove a LGBTQ+ Pride flag that hung in his classroom. Rather than comply with the demand to take it down, Ball, 43, packed his belongings during his prep hour and promptly quit.
Shortly after, Ball posted a video about the incident to his social media.
"After 10-plus years in education, I tendered my resignation today, drove home for the last time and won't be returning," Ball began in the video. "I was already feeling a high level of teacher burnout and struggling to meet the day-to-day demands of the education field. But when administration came around and told me I had to take down my Pride flag, I told them, no, I was not going to be an active participant in the suppression and oppression of an already marginalized group that I'm a part of."
Ball, who identifies as bisexual, said in the video that every classroom should have a rainbow Pride flag in it.
"The Pride flag stands for love, inclusion and equality, something that should be present in every single classroom in the country," he said. "By removing it, I feel like I'm being told I am invalidated, that I don't belong. And that's not a message I want to send to myself, or to any of my students, because regardless of sexual orientation and sexual identity, you belong, you matter. You always have a place in this world."
The instruction to remove the Pride flag apparently originally came at the behest of the district's attorneys, the Thrun Law Firm of Grand Rapids. According to Ball, he was instructed to remove the Pride Flag in an email sent to staff last Friday. On Monday, he received a second notice that the law firm was advising that teachers not hang any flags whatsoever in their classrooms.
Ball initially defied the order. But after receiving another threatening notice, he used his next break to pack and hand in his resignation.
Though Pride Source reached out, Three Rivers Schools Superintendent Nikki Nash was not available to comment on the matter, as the school district is closed for the holiday week. Prior to leaving, Nash told MLive the following:
"This is an ongoing situation," she said. "We continue to work with the district's legal firm and board of education to ensure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students."
Nash promised that a longer statement would be forthcoming but apparently didn't have time to complete it before leaving for the holiday. The district's next school board meeting is set for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6. Ball, who said he will focus now on being a full-time dad, is undecided as to whether he will attend.
"The Pride flag is not a political statement," he said at the video's conclusion. "It's a human rights statement, and we're all human, and we should have the same rights. But we don't."