The Orange County school board heard more criticism Monday night – and something new – in a group’s five-month push to ban the Confederate flag from student clothing and school grounds.
The Board of Education heard from about dozen speakers. Students, parents and community members criticized the board for not acting against a flag that Noah Barger said advocates “a return to a time when the order of the day was black people being subservient” and Heather Ahn-Redding called “a distortion of history that denies the heritage and experience of enslaved men, women and children who essentially built the South.”
But two speakers also thanked for the board for agreeing to seek expert opinions, which it will do during a work session from 1 to 4 p.m. May 31 at C.W. Stanford Middle School in Hillsborough.
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Members will discuss the student dress code, possible policy revisions and arguments surrounding the Confederate battle flag at the meeting, school district spokesman Seth Stephens said Monday.
They’ll hear from legal experts including Irving Joyner, a law professor at N.C. Central University, and Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, and review discipline data related to bullying and intimidation.
To give them a head start, the Hate-Free Schools Coalition gave the school board a list of incidents the group said had happened so far in 2017.
A student of color can’t just walk away when the (Confederate) flag is displayed at their school, and it’s not our job to say just suck it up and deal with it.
Dave Nesmith, parent
The dozen incidents included:
▪ A boy parading a Confederate flag sign at Cedar Ridge High asking if anyone was offended and when a black student said yes, calling the student “a stupid N-word.”
▪ A boy on two days at Orange High wearing a T-shirt with a large Confederate flag on the back that said “If this offends you, you need a history lesson.”
“I already feel outnumbered,” a ninth grader who gave his name as Edward D-E told the school board. “I’m a black male living in America at a time when tensions are high politically and racially. I was warned I might be called the N-word, and that already happened on an Orange County school bus and on my own driveway.
“My parents warned me I would have to stand up and speak out against bullies and people in power positions,” he continued. “I’m doing that right now, Remember me when you talk about why this flag must be removed.”
The board did not respond to the speakers, which is routine for public comments received at board meetings.
In addition to the board’s upcoming work session, the Orange County Human Relations Commission and the Hate Free Schools Coalition will hold a Town Hall Meeting, “A Conversation about the Confederate Flag in Orange County Schools,” at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 8, at the Whitted Building, 300 W. Tryon St., Hillsborough.
Mark Schultz: 919-829-8950;