Trumbull principal investigates ‘hurtful’ incident with pride flag at Madison Middle School

Photo of Amanda Cuda
Madison Middle School, in Trumbull, Conn., Aug. 6th, 2013.

Madison Middle School, in Trumbull, Conn., Aug. 6th, 2013.

Ned Gerard / Ned Gerard

TRUMBULL — The principal of Madison Middle School has launched an investigation into “the actions of students who are reported to have said very hurtful things to supporters of LGBTQ issues,” according to a letter sent home to parents on Monday.

In the letter, Principal Peter Sullivan said the incident in question took place last Thursday. He said a staff member at the school had displayed a pride flag in the cafeteria “without notice or authorization,” in recognition of Pride Month, which is in June. The flag was hung at a time when the administrative team was out of the school building for a training.

After reports came that some students had said “hurtful things” — the nature of which weren’t elaborated on in the letter — the flag was removed.

Sullivan said he wanted to make clear that the school is “fully supportive of inclusivity and the high degree of respect which is necessary to sustain a tolerant environment.” He said a SHADES club was formed at Madison Middle last year to help promote inclusivity.

“I was deeply sorry to hear that the visibility of the Pride flag on Thursday led to some conflict among students,” he said, asking that people not misinterpret the removal of the rainbow flag to mean that the school doesn’t support Pride Month.

“It was a necessary pause, to allow time to follow the original process and to investigate the actions of” the students in question, his letter read. “We remain committed to addressing any such behaviors and will do so as more information comes forward.”

He said he and Madison Assistant Principal Paul Coppola will hold assemblies in the block of time after lunch, beginning Tuesday with the seventh graders. “We need for the students to hear directly from us about ensuring respect for all in an emotionally safe learning environment,” the letter read.

Superintendent of Schools Martin Semmel also sent a letter to parents and staff about the incident. Though he said it would be “inappropriate for me to comment on this active and ongoing investigation at this time,” Semmel said the Trumbull Public Schools “recognizes every child’s right to a free, high-quality public education and values the richness of diversity.”

He pointed out that a pride flag flies at Trumbull High School, and, like Sullivan, mentioned the SHADES club, which is at both middle schools. Both Semmel and Sullivan said the SHADES club members have presented Sullivan with a different pride flag they wish to have hung in school

“As Superintendent of Schools, I publicly denounce any form of hate in our schools and I stand firmly in support of our students, including our LGBTQ+ students,” Semmel’s letter read.

When contacted about the incident on Monday, Semmel said “investigations occur at the principal level but I have been in contact with the principal.”