A school district is drafting a general policy to ban all items that depict the Confederate flag, after suspending nearly two dozen students for wearing clothing that featured that flag.
The Montgomery County School Board in Virginia voted unanimously to draft a policy that would ban all clothing, emblems, decals, or jewelry representing the Confederate flag from all school property in the county.
Board member Penny Franklin, who made the motion for the drafting of the policy, said the school board’s top priority was to have an environment that was safe and conducive to learning, reports the Roanoke Times.
“Symbols, emblems, clothing, decals or whatever that do not support that should not be in our schools,” Franklin said, adding, “When we make a policy change, it should go through two readings … so it could be as late as quite frankly December before a decision is made or it could be as early as the last meeting in November.”
On September 17, nearly two dozen Christiansburg High School students were given an in-school suspension for wearing the Confederate flag, considered to be a violation of the dress code. However, when the students also wore the clothing with the flag’s image to the in-school suspension, they were told to leave school for the day.
In August, students at Christiansburg High School were also told to remove any Confederate flag decals or bumper stickers from their cars.
According to the news report, supporters of the ban said the flag’s image was divisive and disruptive to the learning environment.
“The schools should be a second home to our students,” said Wayne Scales of Blacksburg. “How would any of us like to be in our own home and be uncomfortable?”
Ron Watson of Christiansburg said, “I don’t know any black folks that’s got a Confederate flag. You call it Confederate, we call it rebel…To us it represents nothing but hatred.”
Others, however, said the Confederate flag represents their heritage from the South.
“When I wear my Confederate flag it represents where I come from and my heritage and my heritage is from the South…I’m just heartbroken because people try to call me racist,” said Christiansburg High School sophomore Dalton Reedy.
Similarly, Reedy’s classmate Noah Allif said, “I understand that somebody might be offended by the flag, but I’m offended my heritage and my family is getting kicked around in the garbage.”
Sheila Basham of Christiansburg said that a meeting between a group of people with mixed views and Christiansburg High School Principal Kevin Siers resulted in a compromise resolution that involved the creation of a Southern heritage group at school that would celebrate a heritage pride day during which the Confederate flag could be worn.
Brenda Drake, Montgomery County Schools spokeswoman, confirmed the meeting.
“A group of students consisting of senior class officers, members of the diversity round table and Confederate flag supporters met in October and plan to meet again in November,” Drake said. “This group specifically discussed how students could move forward, in a united way.”
She added that the possibility of an Appalachian history or heritage club was in the initial phases of discussion, and observed that students had already participated in classroom discussions about the flag after the suspensions occurred.
Some board members described the impact of the Confederate flag issue.
Chairman Joey Lyons said the issue would be a challenge for the board.
“I want all of us to remember that no matter what is decided when we look across the aisle we’re going to be looking into our brother’s eyes and we need to still be able to go put our arm around our brother,” Lyons said.