Orange County

Confederate flag forum Thursday night in Hillsborough

As two groups hold a Town Hall meeting Thursday night, two Orange County school board members say they think the school board is nearing a decision on the Confederate flag.

“I hear we’re supposed to get something by the next meeting” Monday, June 12, board member Brenda Stephens said.

Board member Matthew Roberts, who says he has always found the flag offensive, says the board “probably does have legitimate reason to ban the flag on school property” and thinks it will do so this summer.

Thursday’s meeting, “A Conversation about the Confederate Flag in Orange County Schools,” begins at 7 p.m. at at the Whitted Building, at 300 W. Tryon St. in Hillsborough. It is being held by the Orange County Human Relations Commission and the Hate-Free Schools Coalition.

For nearly six months, the coalition has been lobbying the school board to ban the flag on student clothing and Orange County Schools system property. After about 50 people spoke at a February meeting at Stanback Middle School, board Chairman Steve Halkiotis announced a new equity committee would take on the flag and other concerns.

As Halkiotis announced the committee’s establishment, however, the crowd slowly drained away. Roberts said he understood the frustration, describing the board’s response as “the biggest insult.”

On Tuesday, Stephens said she recently asked Superintendent Todd Wirt to propose wording to change the district’s current policies, which do not directly address the Confederate flag.

“We need to do something so that we can move forward,” she said.

Halkiotis says the board will vote Monday on a new policy concerning disruptive symbolic clothing. The proposal does not call for an outright ban on the flag, he said.

Latarndra Strong, a founder of the coalition, asked schools leaders to ban the Confederate flag after seeing a truck displaying it pull into the student parking lot at Orange High, her daughter’s school, three days in a row. Although some have said the flag represents Southern pride, Strong said she saw a symbol of hate.

The coalition, which Strong says has about 250 members from both inside and outside of Orange County, has received support from the NAACP’s Northern Orange County branch, which has also asked the school system to ban the flag.

Stephens said she has continued to communicate with Strong in efforts to work with her.

“I want something strong enough – you need something with some teeth in it to make a difference,” she said. “Otherwise, why bother?”

Tyler Roush: 919-259-4885

What’s next

A Town Hall meeting “A Conversation about the Confederate Flag in Orange County Schools” will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at at the Whitted Building, 300 W. Tryon St. in Hillsborough.