ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Mich. — A teacher in St. Joseph County quit his job this week after he said he was told to remove the Pride flag from his classroom and refused.
Russell Ball says it stems from a parent's complaint but tells us taking the Pride flag down went against what he stood for as a member of the LGBTQ community.
"When the administration came around and told me to take down my pride flag," Ball said, expressed in a TikTok video.
He recently mentioned his frustrations with the Three Rivers School District.
"I was not going to be an active participant in suppression and oppression of an already marginalized group that I am a part of," he said.
Ball, who identifies as bisexual, told FOX 17 he wanted his classroom to be a safe place for anyone.
"I had students that were happy to see the flag and in the room that were telling me, 'Thank you for being here,'" Ball said.
The former teacher claims he wasn't the only school employee to have one up in their classroom. However, he says he was the last one to hold out after two emails were sent out from school officials as they asked for teachers to take them down.
"They were asking me to be complicit and in keeping this group of students marginalized, and all I've gone through education is to fight for those students. It wasn't something I was going to do," Ball said.
He shared a couple of text messages between him and the school principal, and in them, he says he cannot in good conscience take his flag down.
The message shows the principal telling him he understands how it's not coming from him but the district attorney, and just relaying the message from the superintendent.
Ball says he now worries about the students who identify in the LGBTQ community after his struggles growing up.
"I feel like had we had the safe place and able to have people that we could identify with. I wouldn't have struggled with my own sexuality for 30 years because we didn't have that normalization of the community," Ball said.
We've reached out to the school district for comment but haven't heard back. However, in a statement from Interim Superintendent Nikki Nash, she says it's an ongoing situation and is working with the school board and attorneys to provide a safe place for students.
There is a school board meeting on Dec. 6. Ball says that he and others plan to protest the school's decision to remove these flags during that discussion.