Flag is a disruption
It came to my attention in February that a group of parents sought to ban racially divisive symbols, such as the Confederate flag, from the Orange County Schools (CHN, Feb. 28).
My initial reaction was to oppose this effort on First Amendment grounds. However, I learned that in Hardwick v. Heyward, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that schools with a history of racial tension do not violate the First Amendment when they ban the Confederate flag. In those circumstances, the court reasoned, the school can reasonably predict that the flag will cause a substantial disruption to students.
Orange County schools were not fully integrated until the 1968-69 school year, 15 years after the decision in Brown v. Board of Education. When full integration occurred, one white student was knifed as a result of racial fighting. Sixty students walked out over the expulsion of a black student and were blocked by the principal and police when they sought to return. There have also been recent incidents, including a student causing a disturbance at the Orange County Schools by driving on school property with a Confederate flag. Given the history of race relations both recent and in the more distant past, the Orange County School district can reasonably predict that the Confederate flag will cause substantial disruption in our schools.
Our right to free speech has never been without limits. Courts have upheld restrictions on speech inciting violence, obscene speech, and defamatory speech, just to name a few. Schools are a place for learning. Let’s stop hiding behind the First Amendment and ensure that all children in our schools are able to get an education. Please support the Hate Free Speech Coalition’s efforts to ban racially divisive symbols, including the Confederate flag, from our schools.
What lessons does flag teach?
No one is born with biases or prejudice; these we must be taught.
What lessons do our children learn when we condone the display of racially divisive imagery and symbols in their schools?
What do they learn when they see us failing to protect those who are targeted by these symbols?
I’m the mother of a 7-year-old little boy who is beginning to notice that some people are treated differently from others. And he is beginning to ask questions.
These conversations are among the most difficult I’ve had as a parent. Explaining racism to my son is harder than talking to him about death after the loss of a beloved family pet. It’s harder than telling him where babies come from.
My son’s questions expose the unhealed wounds of our bloody heritage, and the questions never stop. It breaks my heart to tell him, and it diminishes his innocence. But I won't shelter him from the truth about our past or our present because I want him to be part of creating a better future.
As hard as it is to tell him the truth about race in America, I refuse to shelter from it because his skin color and gender already do that and will provide him considerable protection throughout his life. He is a person to whom the abundance of the world's opportunity will be available. And this is exactly why I feel it is so important to teach him to see beyond that very narrow sphere.
As a mother, my priorities are to teach my children to be kind and compassionate, generous, curious, and courageous. To consider the impacts of their actions and to recognize and act upon any opportunity to do the right thing.
So it is frustrating to say the least to find that these priorities are undermined, rather than supported, by our public schools as they allow the display of the Confederate flag on school property.
We send our children to school to learn more than how to read and write and perform mathematical calculations.
Our children come to school to learn how to be part of a diverse community. How to contribute their unique skills and gifts and how to value those of others who come from different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences.
We heal the wounds of our past by standing up for what's right today. I expect this of my son, and so I cannot be silent when I have a chance to stand up on behalf of all of our children, who have the right to receive a quality education in an environment that is supportive and safe.
Many have commented they just want minority children to be able to a feel as comfortable as white children in school. Well, I'm raising my white children to be very uncomfortable when they witness hate and discrimination. I'm teaching them to be uncomfortable enough to do something about it, and I'm asking for the school system’s assistance in this effort.
A parent’s apology
As a parent of children who attend local public schools, I unequivocally stand behind the repeated efforts of the Hate-Free Schools Coalition to ban the confederate flag from school property. After speaking at two school board meetings, I feel compelled to issue this apology:
I’M SORRY that the Board is not honoring its responsibility to provide you with a safe learning environment.
I’M SORRY that the public statements made to the board, which align with the standards you are being taught in school (e.g., “respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives”; “present information, findings, and supportive evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective”), have thus far been met with disregard.
I’M SORRY that only one Board member has had the courage to stand up for you publicly.
I’M SORRY that I can't shield you from the ripple effects of our nation’s complex history and that you’re bearing the weight of generations of systematic oppression.
I’M SORRY to those of you who will experience discrimination and hate-related violence in your lives.
I’M SORRY to those of you who are at risk of being thrust into the justice system because of your skin color or socioeconomic status.
I’M SORRY to those of you who will face uphill battles to obtain social, educational, and economic resources because of your skin color or identity.
I’M SORRY to those of you who already know what it's like to be invisible or feared merely because you are you.
I’M SORRY to those whom I have looked through in the past.
I issue this apology with the promise that I will respect all of your identities, honor you in your entirety, and teach my children to do the same.
Please send up to 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions, online comments and posts to editor Mark Schultz’s Facebook page may be edited for space and clarity.