Orange County

Will Durham schools be next to ban Confederate flags, other ‘symbols of hate’?

The Durham Public Schools could possibly discuss strengthening its student dress code Thursday, Aug. 17 to include a ban on the Confederate flag, Ku Klux Klan symbols, swastikas and other such symbols of hate.

The public meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Fuller Administration Building, 511 Cleveland St.

DPS Board of Education Chairman Mike Lee said Wednesday that no formal discussion has been planned, but given the events of recent days, he feels a discussion around district expectation for student behavior and hate symbols is warranted as the Aug. 28 opening of schools approaches.

“Durham Public Schools is 100 percent committed to the safety of students and the restriction of any kind of intimidation or bullying in our schools and that could include those kinds of symbols and messages that may make students in our schools uncomfortable,” Lee said.

When asked if those “symbols and messages” include the Confederate flag, Ku Klux Klan symbols and swastikas, Lee answered “yes.”

Currently, DPS’ student dress codes gives principals the authority to restrict certain types of clothing if it is “reasonably likely to create a substantial and material disruption to the educational process or to the operation of the school.”

School board member Xavier Cason said he too anticipates a discussion about the student dress code when the board meets.

“I think it’s probably going to come up,” Cason said.

He said he thinks the school board should see where the community stands on the dress code before discussing possible changes.

“My general feeling is policy should reflect what community values are,” Cason said.

School board member Matt Sears said he’s not opposed to having a discussion about the student dress code in the wake of recent events in Durham involving protesters who on Monday toppled the statue of a Confederate soldier posted in front of the Durham County administrative offices.

But Sears said the dress code is not his top priority.

“I’m more focused at this time on improving academic and health outcomes for our 33,000 students,” Sears said.

Lee’s remarks came two days after the Orange County Schools rewrote its student dress code to ban the Confederate flag, Ku Klux Klan symbols and swastikas in an emotional school board meeting Monday, Aug. 14.

An earlier version of the Orange County policy included wording similar to that in Durham’sm but the school board there, facing stiff criticism that the policy didn’t go far enough and moved by the events of the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ended in the death of a woman who was protesting a gathering of white supremacists, unanimously adopted a tougher policy banning the hate symbols.

James Barrett, chairman of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, said the school board there believes the district’s anti-bullying policy adequately protects students against bullying and racial intimidation.

The district doesn’t have a district-wide student dress code, so policing dress is left to principals.

The school board released a statement Wednesday, Aug. 16, reiterating district expectations about student behavior pledging to continue use education as a way to build a more “equitable and just” society.

“We will continue to provide safe spaces for our students to learn and engage in ways that allow understanding of our shared humanity and we will continue to work together with our community members to enable this work,” the statement said.

The statement said the district hopes its work to build an environment where students get to know each other in meaningful ways will help to erase the need for any of the district’s students feel the need to wear clothing or symbols that others might consider offensive.

“Our goal is that, through conversations, interactions and respectful learning spaces, our students and community members appreciate our shared humanity and how each of us contributes to our community,” the statement said. “This appreciation enables us to voluntarily avoid introducing symbols and images which could be disruptive to our learning environment.”

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Statement

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools issued the following statement Wednesday:

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools District extends our deepest sympathy, compassion and solidarity to the families of Heather D. Heyer, Virginia State Troopers, HJ Cullen and Berke Bates, DeAndre Harris, and other demonstrators who bravely stood up for human rights in the face of the “Unite for Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

We agree with Nelson Mandela that “Education is the most powerful tool which we can use to change the world” and we will continue our work to educate children for a more equitable and just society. We will continue to provide safe spaces for our students to learn and engage in ways that allow understanding of our shared humanity and we will continue to work together with our community members to enable this work.

We understand that racism and symbols of racism continue to have effects that negatively impact educational opportunities for all our students. With that understanding, we are focused on building an educational environment that enables our students to know each other in meaningful ways. Our goal is that, through conversations, interactions and respectful learning spaces, our students and community members appreciate our shared humanity and how each of us contributes to our community. This appreciation enables us to voluntarily avoid introducing symbols and images which would be disruptive to our learning environment.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Nelson Mandela.

Supported by robust policies, our teachers, staff, administration and board are doing the work to enable this environment in many different ways:

▪  Developing and implementing a comprehensive Equity plan

▪  Implementation of Restorative practices (The foundation of Restorative Practices is the building of community and the honoring and development of relationships. The implementation of Restorative Practices, allows all stakeholders to have a seat at the table, where all voices are welcomed and encouraged.)

▪  Developing and integrating inclusive curriculum along with Professional Development in equity training and implicit bias

▪  Providing equitable and meaningful student leadership and engagement opportunities

▪  Decreasing and eliminating discipline disparities

We are well supported by our Chapel Hill and Carrboro students, parents, NAACP, teacher groups, teachers, school leaders, faith-based organizations, the business community, elected officials and other community members. These groups and individuals not only continue to hold us accountable for outcomes, they also actively engage in creating solutions for our challenges. They are advocates for funding our classrooms and teachers. They support teachers and classroom learning, and they are active participants in our school board meetings.

As a district and a community we know that inclusive spaces benefit everyone and moves us all forward. Every student in the CHCCS district benefits from our work on equity. Improving practices and eliminating barriers to accessing gifted education, language programs, and exceptional children education, increasing graduation rates, reducing discipline disparity, and increasing access to all academic opportunities produces better outcomes for all students.

Equity is the work that will allow 100 percent of our students to succeed. We recognize that we have a long way to go. We ask our community to continue to engage with Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools in our work and join us to continue to focus on the needs of our students and staff.

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