Apparently, there is a face I make when I receive a gift I may not have chosen for myself. It is only obvious to those who know me well, like my husband who says, “There’s the face. You can return it; I have the receipt.” I have tried to freeze my face into a fixed smile upon opening a gift, but he still sees “the face.”
It is very difficult to anticipate how someone may react to a gift, a situation or your decision to switch to one of those all-natural deodorants. You just never know.
I have been thinking about predicting peoples’ reactions as I mull over a decision our local school boards, Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, have made.
There is this 2013 case, Hardwick v. Heyward, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District, that deals with the wearing of the Confederate flag in schools. The court ruled a school district can ban the wearing and displaying of the flag if it thinks the image of the flag would cause a disruption in learning.
Our local districts do not think there would be such a disruption and therefore allow students to wear and display the flag. One student even had a 4 by 6 foot flag mounted to his truck which he parked in the student parking lot.
Thirteen Orange County school district parents and former parents and concerned citizens, spoke out against the flag being worn at school at the Dec. 12 school board meeting. Janet Lamb, a current school parent, said: “My great-great-grandparents on both sides of my family tree fought for the Confederacy… Times change, and the meaning of symbols changes. … In modern times this flag stands for racial intolerance and bigotry.”
A former school parent, Ali Braswell is concerned about the flag, but her greater concern is “the oppressive environment for both students and faculty where everyone is afraid to say anything. There are staff members and faculty who are scared to lose their job if they defend the students hurt by the presence of the flag.”
The morning after the board meeting, I received a statement from Todd Wirt, superintendent of Orange County Schools, in which he said, “The school district conducted a careful review of the concerns raised about the Confederate flag at Orange High School and did not find the learning environment disrupted or that there is a reasonable forecast of disruption.”
Is this a tomato/toe-mah-toe issue? Some say the flag is disruptive, school leadership says it isn’t.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools attorney cites the same case as the reason for allowing the flag to be worn in schools. Ultimately, the principals decide on whether a student can wear something or not. According to Jeff Nash, with the office of community relations for the district, local principals, citing board policy on guidelines, would not have an issue with a student wearing the Confederate flag on a T-shirt or other item. One principal said, “As long as the attire is within guidelines, I do not see an issue.”
LaTarndra Strong, a current Orange County parent, said: “The Confederate flag is associated with a history of hatred and violence towards marginalized communities. …Why is it that some schools seek to nurture and support their students, but students at my children’s school don’t warrant that same consideration and protection?”
Could it be the flag bothers parents but not students? Does the flag only bother certain students and parents but doesn’t bother others?
Peggy Nicholson, Youth Justice Project co-director for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice has been observing the issue. “Our public schools must provide a safe and supportive environment for all students, which includes an environment free from harassment and discrimination,” she says. “Based on the stories shared by students, parents and staff in Orange County Schools, the repeated display of the Confederate flag in the school setting is creating a hostile and oppressive environment that is extremely disruptive to the learning and well being of students, especially students of color.”
Is it possible these students of color aren’t sharing their concerns about seeing the flag at school? Or are they making “the face” I make upon opening an “as seen on TV” gift, but nobody knows them well enough to see their displeasure?
Mary Carey lives in Chapel Hill. You can reach her at email@example.com and on Twitter @maryhelenecarey
Seeking your view
Do you have an essay to share? We’re looking for new voices in the new year. Send your View of 600 to 800 words to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.