CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board voted Thursday night to change two policies to ban the Confederate flag and other “oppressive symbols.”
“One thing we want our students to learn is that, at some point in each of our lives, we will surely have to take a hard stand. This lesson needs not only to be taught, but also modeled at the highest level,” wrote James Barett, the board’s chairman, in a letter to parents, staff and students.
Swastikas are also banned.
“The recent events in Charlottesville and other places indicate more violence is on the horizon, and this measure was taken to ensure our students are not in harm’s way,” Barrett wrote.
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The move came the same week Orange County’s school board voted to change its dress code to specifically ban the Confederate flag, Nazi swastikas and references to the KKK.
That followed months of lobbying by parents and students who formed the Hate-Free Schools Coalition.
“I think the time is right,” said Latarndra Strong, a parent and one of the leading voices calling for the ban. “After the Charlottesville rally, I think it was pretty obvious that we have an emboldened group espousing white supremacist ideology.”
Durham County’s Board of Education will consider a similar ban next Thursday.
During a work session Thursday, superintendent Bert L’Homme noted the research Orange County officials did before making the policy change, including consulting First Amendment attorneys.
Board Chairman Mike Lee said, “I do believe in freedom of speech. However, there’s a limit to that. When it comes to bullying or intimidation, things of that sort, I think we have to draw the line.”
Board Vice-Chair Steve Unruhe pointed out banning specific things could cause some students to find ways around that.
“As soon as you make a list, the next day students are going to bring something that’s not on that list,” he said.
Strong called on school leaders to better address broader issues of racial equity in schools.
“I think you need to raise consciousness about racial equity issues,” said Strong. “I think schools can do a lot, and it starts with knowing their students and knowing their families.”
Chatham County already had a ban on the Confederate flag in the district’s dress code before the events in Charlottesville.
WNCN asked if Wake County school leaders are considering a similar ban.
In an email spokeswoman Lisa Luten wrote, “Our policy already prohibits any item of clothing that is a distraction to the learning environment.”