TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The Twin Falls LGBTQ+ community gathered on Friday night to show support for one another following an incident where hate speech was painted on a pride-themed school spirit rock.
When the image on the school spirit rock outside of Twin Falls High School went from a rainbow LGBT flag to an anti-gay message of hate, local twin falls LGBTQ+ community members and allies said they weren't surprised.
“If you are closeted or even if you are out and you see something like that, it is just a reminder that there are a lot of people who don’t want you here,” said LGBTQ member Myles Reed.
Joining together, students and community members went back onto school grounds with cans of spray paint in hand and a message to share.
“It just kind of shows there are so many more people here who are willing to clean up the mess," said LGBT member Seth Simonson. “That is kind of how pride works, we all come together.”
Before their arrival, the school spirit rock was already painted over by the Twin Falls School District as they recognized the previous messages as hate speech and a violation of district policy.
That did not stop the LGBTQ+ community from adding their own personal touches and writing messages of love and acceptance.
“Pride is also to me just a month where it is key to push harder for the justices that haven't been made to the whole community,” said Simonson.
There have been multiple instances where the message painted on school rocks has become divisive. Now, the Twin Falls School District is developing a written policy for them.
In a statement the Twin Falls School District said,
“The Twin Falls School District allows students to paint the School Spirit Rocks outside of school hours in a hope that they will be used as a means of communication to build school spirit. Most frequently we see the rocks used to celebrate birthdays and to cheer on student activity groups. Over the past few years, there have been instances where the message painted on a rock has become divisive and on occasion has included profanity, vulgarity, or hate speech. When this occurs, our staff paints over the rock. In these instances, the actions of the students involved can lead to disciplinary or legal action. Because this continues to be an issue, we are developing a written policy for the painting of school rocks so that it is clear what the intended purpose and use of school rocks should be.”
“I’m just mad,” said Simonson. “I want something systematic to change, something that will provide more security for people than what is currently being kind of show.
Pride month is being celebrated all throughout June. Southern Idaho Pride is also currently searching for additional vendors and community sponsors for their upcoming pride festival on July 31. Businesses interested in reserving a vendor space can visit southernidahopride.org.