By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A former middle school principal in Marshall, Minn., is suing the local district alleging she was removed from her position after she included a rainbow pride flag in the school cafeteria.

The flag representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, upset a group of staff, parents, students and a local pastor in Marshall, according to the civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. In July 2021, the principal, Mary Kate Thomas was removed from position and demoted to a special projects position.

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Thomas has been an educator and principal for over three decades and a principal for 15 years at Marshall Middle School. Thomas put the pride flag in the cafeteria in January 2020 as part of an inclusion project at MMS. The flag display was to make members of minority or marginalized communities feel welcome, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges the school district’s actions came after Thomas resisted sexual harassment from a school board member in 2019.

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Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as middle school principal.

Jeremy Williams, the superintendent of MPS, said Tuesday the school district denies any allegations of discriminatory conduct.

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members.  The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff, and our families.  While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the Complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct.  The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

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