A Denver Public Schools parent has sued the district over its policy allowing teachers to display Progress Pride flags in their classrooms, saying LGBTQ+ flags “discriminate” against his straight, cisgender, white children.
Nathan Feldman, whose children attend Slavens School in southeast Denver’s Wellshire neighborhood, on Nov. 10 filed the federal suit in the U.S. District of Colorado that states DPS’ policy supporting LGBTQ+ students is “not inclusive of all students” or of his children, who are “heterosexual, Caucasian, and/or binary/’cisgender.'” The lawsuit comes after his unsuccessful attempts to have what he described as a “straight pride” flag displayed in his children’s classrooms.
The lawsuit alleges Feldman and his children have “suffered irreparable harm directly” because of the district’s policy, and it seeks an injunction stopping the district from enforcing the policy that prohibits the straight flag display and a declaratory judgment on the unconstitutionality of the policy.
The lawsuit also seeks $3 million in punitive damages from Slavens School Principal Kurt Siebold, DPS Director of Operations Christina Sylvester, and DPS family constituency specialist Katherine Diaz, who are named individually in the lawsuit as well as the district, the DPS school board, Superintendent Alex Marrero and two of Feldman’s children’s teachers.
According to the lawsuit, Feldman asked the district to display a flag he described in an email as a “straight pride” flag, a black and white striped flag with a linked male and female gender sign on it, in front of his children’s classrooms to include them, but the district did not respond to his request.
“Each day at school, (Feldman’s children) are exposed dozens, if not hundreds, of ‘Progress Pride Flags’ that DPS officials have strung throughout the Slavens School classrooms and halls as a means of expressing and promoting DPS’ favored viewpoint on the topic,” the lawsuit states. “Due to the fact that (Feldman and his children’s) views differ, (Feldman and his children) simply requested to have their views expressed, as well. But DPS has refused, and continues to refuse, to permit (Feldman and his children’s) speech or expression to even exist in its schools.”
Feldman first raised his concerns about pride flags to the district Oct. 6, 2022, according to the lawsuit, after he attended a school event and saw Progress Pride Flags displayed in front of classrooms.
He asked his children’s teachers about the flag displays because “Pride Flags are not inclusive of all Slavens School students and only represent one viewpoint on the topic of sex,” and if he could have the straight pride flag displayed as well.
Neither teacher responded, so he sent a follow-up email that Siebold answered, explaining district policy that supports teachers’ right to display a rainbow flag or any other sign of support for LGBTQ+ students.
The lawsuit alleges Siebold’s response and DPS policy “confirms” the district “does not allow students or staff to speak or express support for students or staff who are not members of the LGBTQIA+ community.”
Siebold later allegedly sent an email that stated, in part, “DPS doesn’t allow for other flags,” according to the lawsuit.
Feldman went back and forth with DPS officials and school administrators and faculty, saying the use of the pride flags and alleged non-allowance for other flags violates the 1st and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
He also sent an email to Sylvester, stating he’d like to “follow [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies] to display a straight pride flag with 2 gender symbols” in front of his children’s classrooms.
He met with Siebold and Diaz in January, where Diaz allegedly said, “‘sexual orientation, gender identity and race protections only apply to homosexuals, people of color, and trans people.”
Feldman claims, according to the lawsuit, straight, white, cisgender people should “be members of protected classes or protected against discrimination” because those are parts of sexual orientation, race and gender identity.
Feldman and his children are being represented by Michael Yoder and Chad LaVeglia, two Washington D.C.-based attorneys.
DPS Director of External Communications Scott Pribble said as of Monday the district had not been served the lawsuit, but even if they had could not comment on pending litigation.