Rainbow flag stirring up controversy at school in Occidental

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Friday, August 23, 2019
Rainbow flag stirring up controversy at school in Occidental
The principal of Harmony School in Occidental greeted students holding a rainbow flag, but not all parents believed it was a welcoming gesture.

OCCIDENTAL, Calif. (KGO) -- In the Harmony Union School District of Occidental, in Sonoma County, the principal/superintendent does jobs large and small.

On Thursday afternoon, that means Matthew Morgan is setting up chairs for a school board meeting about an issue that has suddenly divided this community.

We asked if this was going to be a quiet meeting. Morgan responded, "I hope so, even with a large attendance."

The controversy began last week on the first day of school, and Mr. Morgans's first day on the job. He brought a rainbow flag to school as a welcome gesture. The complaints began the next day.

Kandi Cogliandro, a parent, said, "We can't have religion in school, we can't have ideology in school, politics should not be in school."

Cogliandro was even nervous about doing this interview for fear of how her neighbors might respond. And all from a simple, well-intentioned gesture on the elementary school campus.

"The importance right now is for children to be seen and acknowledged for who they are and to feel safe," said Morgan.

The entire district, including Harmony Elementary, has roughly 250 kids attending through the 8th grade. Most of the parents we spoke to have no issue with the flag.

Parent Bolt Rodriguez said, "Well I think the critics are just putting the rainbow flag in one camp. I think to them it means you're gay or queer and that's all it means to them."

But there is principle at play, Cogliandro told us.

"I feel people want to be equal but we are not equal when we do not agree that we share the same views."

At least they're hearing those views at that big meeting in this very small town.