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Granite School District investigates LGBTQ pride flag burning; no charges to be filed

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Posted - Jun. 18, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.



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KEARNS — The Granite School District is investigating after a video surfaced online over the weekend showing two students within the district burning an LGBTQ pride flag, district officials said.

The video was posted by a student who will be a freshman at Kearns High School next year, and then reposted by another student currently enrolled at the school. It shows someone lighting the flag on fire while someone says “all gays die.” District officials learned of the video when others sent the post to them on Monday, Ben Horsley, spokesman for the Granite School District, told KSL Newsradio’s “The JayMac News Show” Tuesday.

Horsley said both students have been identified and one family was already interviewed. Their names were not released. Both students were members of the Kearns High School football team and have been indefinitely suspended from team activities while the investigation continues. While he described the video as “abhorrent,” Horsley added it’s unclear what the final punishment will be because the incident happened off campus and during summer break.

However, he expected additional consequences in relation to the video.

“If you’re harassing or causing individuals to feel unsafe on campus, if there are implications your online activity could cause concern within the school itself, then we have a responsibility as an administrative team to take action,” Horsley said. “That’s what has taken place here. Obviously, something that broad has implications for any LGBTQ student, so we want to ensure any student who walks into any of our high schools — frankly, any of our schools — feels safe.”

The video was also forwarded to the Unified Police Department, but detectives there determined no crime was committed since nobody was directly threatened in the video, and thus no charges — including possible hate crime charges — will be filed, Unified Police Sgt. Melody Gray said.

“Burning the flag is not a crime, and because our hate crimes law is an enhancement to a crime there is no crime committed, therefore (there is no hate crime),” she explained.

It’s the same determination Hurricane police made last month after an incident involving two Hurricane High School students who appeared in a racist photo that was posted online.

“It becomes a First Amendment issue,” Gray said.

Both police and school district officials said they hope to use the flag-burning incident as an educational opportunity for the students involved and others in the community.

“These are kids, and unfortunately kids make poor decisions on occasion,” Horsley said. "So, in addition to the consequences, we also need to work with those families and provide appropriate education to help them understand why such behavior is not appropriate.”

Contributing: Morgan Pratt, KSL Newsradio

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