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She was the school principal for 16 years. Until she hung up a rainbow flag.

An older woman with a rainbow flag
Photo: Shutterstock

Mary Kay Thomas was a middle school principal in southwest Minnesota for 16 years. But when administrators hung a rainbow flag in the school cafeteria, the religious right started howling for her head.

School district officials gave it to them, she says. It just took them a while.

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Thomas hadn’t actually done anything wrong by hanging the flag and after a small group of “anti-LGBTQ middle-school staff, parents, students, and local clergy” complained, she handed out rainbow stickers to students that wanted them to show solidarity with queer kids.

While they couldn’t fire her, they hounded her until she quit, she alleges.

Thomas filed a lawsuit against the Marshall School District last month, alleging discrimination and retaliation.

She says the district launched an investigation into “nonspecific workplace allegations” that should have lasted a week or two, but dragged on for months. She was placed on administrative leave and suspended without pay.

Thomas, who has a storied history of excellent performance reviews was demoted from her longtime position and assigned a “demeaning” special projects position instead. The year before she was removed, the previous superintendent named her “Champion of Students,” highlighting her support for the underrepresented and marginalized.

The school lowered the flag after she was removed from the position.

She seeks monetary damages and reinstatement to her job as principal of the school.

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