Political Statements in School Settings

A look at the School Boards Decision to Ban the Confederate Flag

Sylvie Wolkenbreit, Staff Reporter

This year, the Salida School District has introduced a new rule: banning of the Confederate Flag from all school settings. This means that the flag is no longer allowed on school property, including on clothing, apparel, accessories, etc.

The student handbook states that “Clothing with obscene or sexual references in words or graphics should not be worn.” However, the handbook given to students at the beginning of the year does not specify any hate symbols such as the Confederate Flag or swastika. In the detailed student dress code, it says Otherwise disrupt the teaching-learning process (to include swastikas and Confederate flags)”. This can be found on the school website under the Salida School Board Policy, file JICA.

Superintendent David Blackburn shared some information about the situation. The decision to ban the Confederate Flag was decided at the school board level. The school board decided to add the rule for a couple of different reasons. When the flag was not specified as not allowed on school grounds, oftentimes other students would get offended by people broadcasting the flag. Teachers would have to deal with these situations. The other reason was that the school board received a community request to remove the flag from schools.

The decision to ban the flag came with three consecutive meetings. At each one, the board members discussed and voted on the issue. The three separate meetings allowed the public to comment and input their opinions, and for the board members to reconsider and thoroughly think through their decision.

The true meaning of the Confederate flag depends on who is being asked to describe it. Some people will claim that it represents southern pride and history. Others may be offended by it because they believe it represents slavery, racism and division within the United States

Cory Scheffel, Dean of Students, has not yet had any kids discuss the ban with him. With 2020 being an election year, the political climate is particularly tense. Scheffel said he believes students should be able to express their political beliefs in a school setting, as long as it does not become disruptive. Scheffel attended a training with the Office of Civil Rights last year. 

“There are levels of freedom of speech in schools; you just don’t want it to get to the point of being disruptive in the educational setting,” Scheffel stated.

Most high schoolers have some idea about what political party they would like to be a part of once they turn 18. A lot of kids in high school are going to be able to vote soon, and some will be able to vote this year. 

“Especially at this age, we have a lot of kids that are right on the edge of voting and so for them to have opinions and have thoughts I think is important,” said Scheffel.

Scheffel thinks that the decision to ban the flag this year compared to any other may be partially due to some of the events that have occurred this year. This could include protesting, rioting, COVID-19, climate change and many other things 2020 has tested the country with.

Overall, students have been very respectful about the decisions made. Students have political freedom to wear and talk about their opinions at school, as long as it does not interrupt the learning process.