FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – The Franklin County School Board adopted a new dress code Monday night, but an amendment that would have specifically banned the Confederate flag did not pass.
The board was tied 4-4 over the vote on the amended dress code. The dress code without the amended ban passed 7-1 with board member Penny Blue voting against it.
Members of the community spoke before the vote, both supporting and opposing the ban.
“The flag serves as a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy,” said Dr. Gloria Freeman-Martin, a Franklin County resident.
“Nothing needs to be banned. If you go down that road, it’s a slippery slope. And I would urge those who want to walk around on this Earth, spring-loaded in the offended position, please just get over it,” said another resident, Patrick Cosmato.
Back in October, Blue, the only African American member of the board, proposed the amendment to the dress code, which does read “Clothing may not depict discriminatory, obscene or hate speech imagery.”
Blue said the Confederate flag should be specifically prohibited in the dress code because it’s a disruption for students.
"It’s a symbol of a dispute. It’s a symbol of a civil war,” Blue said.
She also mentioned examples where African American students in Franklin County were targeted or bullied by other students and called racial slurs.
Board members who opposed the ban referred to the recommendation from the school district’s attorney, Steve Maddy. He cited previous court rulings, saying students could argue that banning the flag would infringe on their free speech and the district might face a lawsuit itself.
Larry Darnell Moore II, a Franklin County teacher, said while he hasn’t seen the Confederate flag cause significant problems in the schools, there’s still a minority of the student population that finds it hurtful and offensive.
“With African Americans being 8% of the community, it’s something that wouldn’t really cause an issue, but it’s something that’s always been an underlying issue,” Moore said.
He added that Franklin County has had students “who would wear that flag all the time and they would be absolutely wonderful people, but there are also students who really harbor some terrible sentiments that think that they have a majority because they can sit next to a kid that would be wearing the same flag.”
Blue expressed concerns that not including a specific ban on the Confederate flag would be a mistake and could lead to litigation if all the schools in the district did not enforce the dress code exactly the same way.
“I guess I’m unhappy with the decision," Moore said. "I think we’ve used kind of the heritage part of the Confederate flag to hide a lot of history and misteach history and I think because of that it’s really time to step forward and kind of be decisive about how we’re going to view things as Americans.”