Rutherford Co. School Board urged to allow LGBT poster

A standing room only crowd was sounding off at the Rutherford County School Board meeting to discuss a sign one teacher was required to remove. It said his classroom was a "safe place" for LBGT students.

Allen Nichols teaches history at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro.

Nichols said he hung the sign at the request of his students in the Gay, Straight Alliance. They received the administration's approval as part of a national campaign to end bullying targeting lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual students.

"I teach in a great school with great administrators, great teachers and great students," said Nichols. "Top notch learning is still going on in our school." | Nashville News, Weather

Members of the school and people in the community people were taking sides over the sign.

A sea of purple filled the meeting room as many showed support for Nichols. They showed up en mass hoping to reverse the district's decision to make him remove the poster.

"It's just a small little thing. I don't know how big it is, it's not too big," said 10th grade student Holden Ayers. "It says it's a safe zone. It's got a triangle with rainbow colors on it."

"It went through the whole school year without incident and then this year a parent saw it at our parent orientation night and wrote a letter of complaint," Nichols said.

In a letter, the parent said they found the poster offensive, citing their religious beliefs and concerns that it promotes a certain lifestyle.

Ultimately administrators asked Nichols to remove the sign in an attempt to stay neutral.

Nichols said he would hang similar signs from any group.

"I would be doing the same thing if this were a Christian group, if this were Fellowship of Christian Athletes (or) if it were First Priority," Nichols said.

Some in attendance at the school board meeting offered their support to Nichols.

"Forcing the teacher to take down the sign is almost as tantamount to enforcing an opinion," said parent Michael Pozzebon.

Nichols said the free speech argument did not address the core issue of bullying and the student's right to feel safe.

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