Senior’s rainbow flag generates ire, support
MHS principal says student wasn’t told to remove LGBT symbol
A rainbow flag painted by a Marion High School student on his assigned parking spot on Lincoln St. last week sparked negative reactions and vandalism from some and an outpouring of support from others.
Logan Waner’s painting of a symbol of unity and pride used by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community was pre-approved by MHS Principal Tod Gordon as part of the school’s tradition of allowing seniors to paint their parking spots.
Controversy began and confusion ensued Sept. 26 after the school reportedly received at least one complaint from an unidentified community member.
A social media post by Waner alleged that he had been told the flag had to be removed. The post was widely shared, and an online petition in support of keeping the flag quickly garnered more than 600 signatures.
A subsequent post Wednesday by Waner said the decision had been reversed and that he could keep the flag.
Gordon said Monday that at no point was Waner told to paint over the rainbow.
“From day one it was approved and it’s still approved, and there was a time in there where there was just a lot of hype on social media,” Gordon said.
He said approval was his decision.
“Ultimately, it was my decision,” Gordon said. “I approved it from the beginning, and it stays approved.”
Gordon said there are no guidelines in writing for students.
“I didn’t see any problems with his design,” he said.
Waner, who is 17, did not have permission from his parents to talk with the media.
Gordon found out Sept. 26 about controversy surrounding the parking space, but he does not know who complained or how many complaints there were.
“When I heard there was some opposition to that, that’s when I went back to Logan and I said, it’s not that I didn’t agree with the design,” Gordon said. “There just wasn’t going to be any controversy, period, whatever it was.”
Gordon said he held a meeting with Waner and other students who had various issues to resolve with their parking spot locations and designs.
“We started talking about making some changes to that, and then that’s when social media just blew up about not being allowed to do it,” Gordon said. “It was just trying to do something simple and fun at the school, and social media just took it to a new level.”
At least three Wichita media outlets reported stories the next day, based on social media sources and contact with the school.
Gordon said he and Waner never discussed how the spot would be altered to eliminate controversy.
“It was never a case where we ever got to the point of we are going to change this, and this is what we’re going to do with it,” he said.
Gordon said he did not know how Waner felt about changing his design.
“I think he was surprised at (the controversy) and he didn’t like that idea, and I said I think we better change it,” Gordon said. “I didn’t realize that he was even upset about the idea of changing it.”
Waner made the social media post after the meeting.
“Social media just really went crazy,” Gordon said. “It’s kind of like if there’s that much, let’s leave it alone. I basically went back to him pretty quick after that, just leave it, that’s fine.”
Gordon said he intended to protect Waner from unwanted attention.
“I wasn’t trying to change it because of the design,” he said. “I just didn’t want him to be subject to any extra attention, that’s what I was trying to avoid. It was never that I was ever opposed to it, I just didn’t want him to be up against any opposition, so I was really more concerned about him and the potential of any problems that he might have with it.”
The controversy escalated to a new level Thursday morning when Marion police reported that someone covered the colorful parking spot overnight in black latex asphalt sealer. Waner and Gordon spent their Thursday morning — the school’s service day — power washing the rainbow with TV cameras rolling.
“When it got painted over, that’s when everybody chimed in,” Gordon said. “That’s when it went to a new level.”
Gordon took the blame for not communicating well enough with Waner about the idea of changing the rainbow to eliminate controversy.
“He didn’t come across like he was real upset with that, but obviously that was a misread on my part because obviously he was,” Gordon said.
He added that the whole situation could have been avoided by one more meeting with Waner.
“I wish it had been more of just me and Logan getting a chance to maybe even visit one more time after I told him I thought we ought to change it,” Gordon said. “I wish he’d have come back in and said OK, this is something I strongly want to keep, and we could have had one more conversation before social media just ran wild with it. Needless to say, that never happened.”
Gordon said Waner received a lot of support over the last week.
“It turned out that we kept it, and there was a lot of support for it,” Gordon said
He said controversy may be unavoidable.
“Unfortunately, I’m starting to realize that in this day and age, no matter what you put out there, there’s always going to be somebody that has controversy with it,” Gordon said. “It’s just supposed to be some kids having some fun, and it spiraled into a lot bigger picture than that.”
Last modified Oct. 5, 2017