Empty flag poles explained

Regardless of the fact that many students walk by the flag poles everyday, few are aware of their history and what they stand for. Currently they are empty; however, they should be flying by the end of the year.

Seven flags stand just outside the school’s doors.

One bearing the stars and stripes and the others waving purple, black, white, yellow, brown and red.

Many students walk by these seven flags every day but few know for what they stand.

School principal, Jason Smith, sheds some light on their origins.

“They were created in order to show that PHS has a solid understanding of diversity and [that] we care about the diversity of our school and diversity issues and to show that we respect all of our cultures here at the school,” Smith said.

There is significantly more to the little-known backgrounds of these diversity flags. Their creation stemmed from a lawsuit filed against the school in 1999.

“At that time there was a lawsuit that had taken place and I think the lawsuit sparked a lot of ideas and awareness about how we can make our high school more welcoming and tolerant of all of our cultures and all of our people that attend,” Smith said. “I think that [the flags were] a gesture, a symbol to show that we care about what is taking place and student issues.”

In the wake of the lawsuit, the diversity flags that sit outside the school were born.

Spanish teacher Michelle Heeb does not recall there being much fuss about the raising of the flags in 2000.

“[The flags] were put up after [the lawsuit] and I do not remember anything ever being said about ‘these are our new diversity flags,’ they just magically appeared,” Heeb said.

The district continues to make an effort to raise awareness of student diversity but according to Smith, many students are unaware of the purpose the diversity flags serve.

“I do not think [most students know the purpose of the diversity flags] because if you are a senior and you started in 2011, that was still well before your time. So I would bet most students do not know and maybe that is something we should change, maybe our MLK assembly would be a good time to talk about that,” Smith said.

However, senior Rachel Owens knows some of the flags’ history.

“They represent diversity… I have been told,” Owens said.

If you look outside today, the flags have actually been taken down for repair but Smith says they should be back by the end of the year.

“[The flags] are down because they were so ripped and worn that we wanted to replace them and… the senior gift that [the class of 2011] left was to replace the flags, so we are in the process of getting them ordered and getting new ones, they had just gotten beat up and worn out with all the weather,” Smith said. “I am hoping [the flags will be back up] this year.”

Heeb suggests other possible ways for the flags to represent the culture here at the high school.

“You could do flags of different nations. I was over at Chief Leschi and in their gym they had flags of all the different Native American nations that were represented at their school, which was really cool. You could have flags of all the different countries that are represented here,” Heeb said. “We could have kids design something to put on the flags, you know, student art.”

The diversity flags of PHS have quite the history behind them and Smith feels that they are effective in their purpose of representing the diversity at PHS.

“I like the flags. I think when they are up and the flags are new that they are beautiful and I think they are a good symbol of who we are and what we care about. I think that there are other ways besides flags but more than that it is a culture of your school, it is how students are feeling, how we treat each other, that is what I look at versus any other symbol,” Smith said.