The Orange County (N.C.) school board has unanimously adopted a revised student dress code that bans the Confederate flag, Ku Klux Klan symbols and clothing, and swastikas.
The Durham Herald-Sun reports that the new policy is intended to help teachers and staff protect students and the learning environment, Superintendent Todd Wirt says.
“The new policy gives our staff the permission to ensure that the learning environment in each of our schools and in each of our classrooms is free of intimidation and distraction with regards to dress and symbols of speech,” Wirt says. “I, along with all of my colleagues in Orange County Schools, have been entrusted by our community to not only educate our students but to protect them and empower them.”
The board’s vote came during a meeting attended by dozens of citizens who came to support the ban against the Confederate flag, which is widely viewed as a symbol of white supremacy and racial hatred.
School board Chairman Steve Halkiotis hinted that the board, which came prepared to adopt a policy that some criticized as not being explicit in its opposition to the Confederate flag, had been moved by the events over the weekend that ended in the death of a woman who was protesting the gathering of white supremacists.
“The tragic loss of a 32-year-old woman, an innocent human being, the tragic loss of two Virginia state troopers who were there to provide for the health, safety and welfare of all people in the city of Charlottesville cannot go unnoticed,” Halkiotis told the audience.
Although the policy clearly states the Confederate flag is banned from school grounds, School board member Matt Roberts asked for clarity around clothing that can’t be easily seen by others.
Specifically, Roberts wanted to know if belt buckles with the flag on them are banned if a student’s shirt is pulled over it and also whether socks with the flag are also banned.
School board attorney Jonathan Blumberg said belt buckles and socks with the offending symbols cannot be worn to schools under the policy.
The policy says:
“Clothing and accessories are not to substantially disrupt the education process. Students are not to wear clothing, buttons, patches, jewelry, make-up, face/body paint or any other items with words phrases, symbols, pictures or signs that are indecent, profane, or substantially disruptive, including items that are reasonably expected to intimidate other students on the basis of race (for example KKK, swastika, and the Confederate Flag), color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or religious affiliation.”