Flags fly high over the Pride Bigger Than Texas Festival and Parade on June 29, 2019.
San Antonio Independent School District's chief communications officer advised principals last week to not highlight or promote National Coming Out Day. Credit: Stephanie Marquez / San Antonio Report

San Antonio Independent School District’s chief communications officer advised principals last week to not highlight or promote National Coming Out Day, a day that marks the anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

The communication sent to principals last week came after some members of SAISD staff asked the district about celebrating the awareness day, which was Oct. 11, on Friday, Oct. 9.

In response to the questions, Chief Communications Officer Vanessa Barry wrote to principals, asking them to not post items about the day on school social media, organize events, create related lessons for students, distribute related swag or promotional items, or host a team meeting on the subject.

Instead, Barry recommended principals to allow any staff to wear attire of their choosing, such as rainbow colors. “Verbally acknowledge staff members one-on-one,” the guidance continued.

“While we support all of our SAISD family members, this is not a district-approved public celebration,” Barry wrote in the email obtained by the San Antonio Report.

In the email, Barry told principals that she was working on a calendar of district-approved celebration days and months, which would include Pride Month in June.

On Thursday, when Barry was asked about the guidance to principals last week, she said National Coming Out Day would be included in the calendar that will be presented at a November board meeting.

Barry told the San Antonio Report that it is common for the district to provide “informal clarification on holidays and celebrations,” but did not provide examples of when this had been done in other instances.

Barry also noted the district’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, which include a 2017 nondiscrimination policy and the addition of a Chief Diversity Officer.

SAISD attracted media attention in 2017 when the district became Bexar County’s first to add sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to its nondiscrimination policies. At the time, the decision drew criticism from conservative groups such as Texas Values. Still, all seven trustees voted unanimously to back the policy.

SAISD board President Patti Radle was one of those yes votes. On Thursday, she emphasized the district’s commitment to supporting the LGBTQIA community.

“There’s no pull-back on any commitment about diversity or acceptance of people who are gay or lesbian or queer,” Radle said. “Our board wasn’t asking to pull back, I think it has more to do with ‘Let’s be aligned together, we’re going to celebrating this in this month, celebrating this at that month, we’re creating a calendar.’ Maybe it was to avoid confusion for when we get there, I don’t know.”

Radle said the forthcoming calendar will affirm the district’s commitment to inclusion.

“I don’t want anybody to think that we weren’t behind the LGBT community,” Radle said.

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.