A North Carolina school board has voted not to ban the Confederate flag from school grounds. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the Orange County Schools Board of Education decided instead on Monday to establish an equity committee to advise the board on several issues, including symbolic speech. People of all ages wore NAACP and “Ban it now” shirts and buttons during the Monday meeting while more than 50 people signed up to speak during the public comments portion, with a vast majority asking for the flag to be banned or officially added as an agenda item to be discussed by the board.
Board chairman Steven Halkiotis said board members will not tolerate hate speech, bullying or intimidation.
“We believe our principals are best equipped to monitor and respond to issues of bullying, harassment or other disruptive conduct…” the Board said in a release. “The Board and administration believe the best way to effect positive change in the behavior of students is through the programmatic steps it is taking and not by banning a particular symbol.”
The Northern Orange County NAACP had asked the board to ban the Confederate flag on school grounds during the board’s earlier meeting in February.
“To the NAACP, that includes the historical context of the Confederate flag to slavery, the Confederacy, the Civil War and Jim Crow,” NAACP President Patricia Clayton said in a letter to school board members. “For many, the flag is a racially inflammatory symbol, which is undeniably rooted in slavery and racism. Given OCS’ commitment to serve all students, the district should not allow the Confederate flag on its campuses.”
Several people in the community have underlined the increased appearance of the battle flags on vehicles, bags and pieces of clothing on school grounds. There was also an incident at Cedar Ridge High School last week during which a student apparently carried a Confederate flag around the school asking students if they were offended. One woman said that the student in question used a racial slur while asking her child if the flag was offensive.
One parent, Kelly Doherty, rather astutely questioned why her 11-year-old daughter’s potentially bare thigh is deemed a “distraction” warranting a mention of the dress code, but the Confederate flag is not. Latrandra Strong, founder of Hate-Free Schools and Coalition, said:
“We have been challenging the schools and their dress code policy for allowing the Confederate flag on school properties. We feel like the Confederate flag has dual meaning. Some of it is Southern heritage, but there is also an element about racial intimidation, harassment and racial superiority. And we think that it is not embracing of all citizens, and thus, should not be allowed on campus.”