The Carroll County (Md.) school district says it is taking steps toward banning the Confederate flag and swastikas on school grounds and at school-sponsored events.
The Carroll County Times reports that Superintendent Stephen Guthrie directed Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Steven Johnson to craft sample language for a change in the student dress code. The change would be presented to the school board next month.
“What we’re talking about is a symbol that is generally accepted to promote hate,” Guthrie says. “Times change. Symbols change meanings. And that’s what’s happened in this case.”
The decision was met with applause from those in attendance at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
Six people spoke on the topic during public comment, all of whom were in favor of banning the Confederate flag.
Most of the board members expressed support of the plan; in any case, Guthrie clarified the dress code change is not a school board decision because it is a regulation, not a policy.
“This is my decision at this point,” Guthrie says. “I want to make clear, this falls under my authority.”
Guthrie had asked the school district’s attorney, Edmund O’Meally, for a legal opinion on whether the district has the authority to ban the symbols from schools.
The dress code currently reads, “Clothing shall not convey symbols or messages generally accepted to promote intolerance, hate, racial slurs, or sexual harassment.”
"The central question under review is,” board documents state, ‘Can the confederate flag be prohibited under this provision of the dress code or must the school system wait for a problem to occur before prohibiting the display of the confederate flag?'”
In O’Meally’s 10-page legal opinion, he says the district can make a reasonable case that Confederate flags and swastikas have come to be seen by many students, staff and parents “as unwelcoming symbols of intolerance, racial hatred and white supremacy.”
The district reports that during the current school year, students, parents, and faculty say the presence of the Confederate battle flag on student attire and in student parking lots creates a racially hostile environment.
“Despite the sincere good-faith efforts of many Carroll County residents, the lingering vestiges of racial intolerance still exist as displayed on student clothing and on vehicles parked on student lots,” the document reads.
“Based upon these events and displays both past and present, school officials can reasonable forecast that the continued display of Confederate battle flag symbols on school grounds will both materially interfere with school operations and collide with the rights of students, faculty, and staff who not only merely disagree with the perceived message behind the symbols but are so vehemently and negatively impacted by their presences at school that a hostile educational environment is created adversely impacting their ability to learn and teach.”