Pictures of Confederate flags paraded at Jefferson Forest High School stir up controversy

Bedford County Public Schools says students didn't break rules, parents upset

By Magdala Louissaint - Lynchburg Bureau Reporter

FOREST, Va. - A picture says a thousand words.

"Really?" said Kay Foster said. Eleanore MacDonald added, "What were they trying to prove?"

Those were two reactions from Bedford County community members after 10 News showed Foster and MacDonald pictures of Jefferson Forest High School students that parents shared with WSLS. 

The picture shows some students parading Confederate flags on school grounds.

"This is a display the administration knew was coming? They approved this? They saw this ahead of time? Foster asked. 10 News reporter Magdala Louissaint said, "I don't think so." Foster said, "I don't think so!"

School officials tell 10 News it's spirit week at the school. The pictures were taken Monday for "Country vs. Country Club Day."

It's a day when students dress in country or high-society style clothing.

School leaders said two students wore Confederate flags tied around their necks like scarves.

A social media post was then sent out asking other students with American or rebel flags to meet after fifth period for a picture. The photos were posted the next day.

"I just don't think it's right. There's just so much controversy going on in this country now. We don't need to add anymore. It's history. It's done. It's over with. Go on," MacDonald said.

Parents with children at the school took to Facebook, expressing concerns and implying racism. Some flag supporters wouldn't speak with 10 News on camera, but didn't see anything wrong with what the students did.

Bedford County Public School officials released a statement, saying:

"On Monday, February 4, 2019, several JFHS students displayed various flags, photographed themselves with the flags, and then posted those images on social media. This posing, photographing, and posting was not reported to staff on Monday, as it occurred in a matter of seconds. Though our school and student population was and has not been disrupted by the posting, we have received considerable concern about the post from parents and others in the community related to the theme of the post and what they believe it implies about our schools and community.

Any time our staff witnesses or receives a report of any disturbing behavior, we investigate the matter immediately and take all appropriate action, as we have done in this case. It is troubling to see what has transpired on social media following the incident, as what has been alleged by many is simply not true and in no way reflects Jefferson Forest High School and the high standards we hold for our students and staff.

Ensuring the physical and emotional safety of our young learners is always our top priority, and we will continue to work with our entire school community to foster a climate where everyone feels welcome."

"I really think the administration should've stepped in. I had three children at that high school back in the day and I know they wouldn't have gotten away with it? Maybe the policy needs to be tweaked a little bit so it's not offensive to people," Foster said.

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