A call for transparency

Mr. Watts removed his flag of the Soviet Union from his classroom after complaints from parents

Illustration by Carly Carter

Illustration by Carly Carter

After having the flag up for eight years, Modern World and US History teacher Geoffrey Watts removed his flag of the Soviet Union from his window. The RBUSD Parents for Transparency claimed on their social media platforms (Instagram and Facebook), that he was breaking the Educational Code (ED Code) by promoting communist ideologies in his classroom.

“I’ve had the Soviet Union flag up for a while now, and I never once thought it would be interpreted the wrong way since I teach about the country to my classes,” Watts said. “In fact, kids have come in saying ‘Wow, that’s so cool that you have a flag from the Soviet Union.’ It’s sparked quite a few historical discussions that would lead to interesting conversations.’” 

During the Russian Revolution, the flag emerged under the Soviet Union regime until the country collapsed in 1991. The flag represents the communist party of the Soviet Union, and continues to encompass the communist movement in its entirety. Many current communist countries’ flags, such as China and North Korea, have similar designs inspired by it.

Watts declined any personal significance or belief in communism, saying the flag was on his window simply for “educational purposes.” Additionally, the Soviet Union flag is not the only one that can be seen in his classroom, as he’s hung up many other flags from different nations to represent history. 

“The flag itself in my classroom is from the Cold War. On my window, I had the Soviet Union flag on one side, and the American flag on the other to represent the Cold War Era that we learn about in U.S History and Modern World History,” Watts said. “Teaching facts about communism is allowed, as long as you’re not indoctrinating students into the ideology.” 

However, the RBUSD Parents for Transparency posted a picture of only the Soviet Union flag on their social media, which was hung up on one side of the window, excluding the American flag he put up on the opposite side of the window. They claimed that parents should contact the superintendent and board members about it, as they found it offensive. 

Principal Anthony Bridi said that he never found any problem with the historical flag being posted on the window.

“I’m aware Mr. Watts has a variety of flags in his classroom and knowing his current classroom environment, which is a history class, it shouldn’t be an issue. We just go with what’s being taught in the standards, and Mr. Watts teaches World and US History, which encompasses all histories in context of the historical timeline of events.”

According to Bridi, the ED Code is a set of rules that govern how students in the public education setting receive and get access to their education. RUHS follows the California ED Code.

In order to deal with issues among students, parents and teachers, Bridi said the school follows a protocol to overcome disputes anyone may have. 

“If a parent has a complaint, they bring it to the teacher with the student and try to solve the issue. If anything is unresolved, then it goes to the counselor, assistant principal and then to me,” Bridi said. “As many students are self-advocating for themselves, they know their teachers are approachable. It’s expected to ask questions and raise concerns. It’s part of the equation.” 

Watts similarly claimed this issue could’ve been alternatively fixed if the parents who had a problem with the flag had simply come to discuss their concerns with him. Yet, following the backlash from the RBUSD Parents for Transparency, Watts decided to remove the flag from his window.

I was disappointed that the people who had a problem with my flag didn’t come and discuss the situation with me personally before putting an image that doesn’t tell the story on social media for people to get the wrong idea. But, no one told me I had to take it down. The group of parents thought I should take it down, but I wasn’t breaking any ED Code,” Watts said. “I took it down because it was my own personal choice. I didn’t want there to be a distraction on this campus, myself, this school, or my family.”