Protesters renew push to ban Confederate apparel in Orange County schools

Joel Brown Image
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Orange County continues debate over Southern symbols
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Protesters want Confederate symbols banned in Orange County schools.

HILLSBOROUGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- In one of the last school board meetings of the school year, a vocal group of parents and students fighting for a change in the district's dress code policy got decidedly louder Monday night.

"No fear, No hate, the school board should cooperate," protesters chanted outside Gravelly Middle School, Monday evening, where the Orange County School Board was holding its public meeting.

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Protesters young and old descended on the school to keep the pressure on the board to write a ban on the Confederate battle flag into the dress code. They insist it's a matter of safety.

Edward, a student at Orange High, whose mother did not want his last name used, helped lead the charge. He came ready to tell the board what he's seeing and feeling at school.

"There are Confederate flags on shirts and hats and cars," Edward told ABC11 before the meeting began. "I feel like it's being used to inspire hate here in our schools and making people like myself feel not very safe."

Unlike the school board meeting, earlier this month, there was no contingent of pro-Confederate protesters outside or in. They've argued the flag is a symbol of Southern heritage, not hate.

The Orange school board says it needs more data on confirmed incidents of the flag being used to harass or intimidate before taking any action that could infringe on some students First Amendment rights.

The protesters, who call themselves the Hate-Free Coalition, brought their own numbers; a list of 10 racially-charged incidents this school year including a case where a Confederate-flag-waving boy inside a campus cafeteria walked around asking classmates whether the flag scared them.

PREVIOUS STORY: Confederate apparel in Orange County schools sparks civil war of words

"One person said no, I'm actually offended. Then the student carrying the Confederate flag called him a stupid n-word," Emily Alstad, with the Hate-Free Coalition, told the board.

Edward took his turn at the podium to share a story as well.

"I was standing by a water fountain with one of my friends. We overheard two students talking about gay people and how they should be put on leashes and dragged. These students are known to wear the Confederate flag," Edward recounted. "Did I discuss this with anyone? No, only with my mom."

That's one of the problems for the district in investigating these cases. Many of the incidents go unreported. And many others that are reported are simply recorded as behavioral disruptions not necessarily tied to Confederate apparel.

The school board says it continues to study the ongoing issue. No action was taken at Monday's meeting.

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