Vandalism of Gay Pride Symbol Leads District to End Tradition

MARION, Kan. — Self-expression or vandalism? On public high school school campuses, the dynamic tension between the two notions has long been worthy of Charles Atlas.

In a recent case that arose in the 500-student Marion-Florence school district in Marion, Kan., school officials had to forbid an annual homecoming tradition that entailed the customization of senior parking spaces with paint. The school district voted 4-3 in December 2017 to end the practice after a number of controversial student designs raised the ire of the local community.

Two designs from last year, including the Confederate flag (widely regarded a symbol of racial hate) and the depiction of a controlled substance (marijuana is not let legal in the Sunflower State), spurred concerns continued last September by a student’s rainbow-colored flag, a symbol of gay pride.

According to the Associated Press, student Logan Waner’s flag design was approved by the school principal; however, someone took umbrage with its meaning and vandalized it with black latex asphalt sealer. Regardless, Waner and his classmates were able to recover the image using a power washer.

Waner’s experience is par for the course for those who express sympathies with the LGBTQ community due to the district’s proximity to Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., which is known for its vociferous anti-gay protests. The religious organization attempted to demonstrate at the school in November but was thwarted by counter-protesters.

The irony that First Amendment free speech was preserved for everyone in this matter except the students for whom their parking spaces represented 180 square feet of identity politics was not lost of the district, which is exploring the implementation of new tradition that will similarly permit students to express themselves. There is currently no report of the school board exploring means of safeguarding against vandalism of student self-expression using an array of graffiti resistant sealants and related products.

Pennsylvania-based Scranton Products, which specializes in safeguarding educational facilities from vandalism, is one of many suppliers that offer high-density polyethylene (HDPE) anti-vandal solutions. HDPE is a durable thermoplastic material that resists dents, scratches, mildew and graffiti. Likewise, Urban Hygiene, a UK-based provider, proffers a clear, anti-graffiti finish as well as a “Non Darkening Acrylic Sealer Coat” developed to lessen the “wetting” effect caused by the application of clear coatings to substrates like concrete, brick, stone and masonry.

The debate regarding the school officials decision to end its tradition of student parking space personalization spilled over onto Facebook where Waner’s profile page has become a veritable sounding board for the changing morés of the community the district represents.

As one Waner supporter opined, “When a student paints something they like on a parking space isn’t that sharing a part of their private life? The whole idea was to express yourself lol they just don’t want people to express something they don’t agree on.”