Confederate Flag Ban Proposed For Baltimore County Public Schools
A Maryland legislator is calling for a ban on confederate flags and other hate symbols in the Baltimore County Public Schools.
She was asked to submit the request for a ban by a Black Lives Matter group in a part of the county that is overwhelmingly white.
A 14-year-old rising Hereford High School freshman said during his time at Hereford Middle School, the confederate flag was everywhere. The student, who asked to remain anonymous fearing for his safety, told WYPR that the flag - a divisive symbol of renewed national debate - was visible everywhere on T-shirts and stickers.
The student, who is white, said, “Imagine seeing that as a student of color, that would be terrible. I can’t even imagine.”
The teen is part of a local Black Lives Matter group made up of students and adults in the Hereford Zone. According to their Facebook page, the group was founded to put an end to racism in the community.
The Hereford Zone is Baltimore County’s largest rural area, starting around Cockeysville, north to the Pennsylvania line.
Delegate Michele Guyton represents the Hereford Zone in the legislature. She said she was asked by Black Lives Matter Hereford Zone to pressure the school system to ban hate symbols, including the confederate flag, swastikas and nooses.
Guyton said, “It’s always been a concern to me but it felt like this was the time to really make a difference and to make this change.”
Guyton said the change needs to be countywide because the symbols are not found in just one area.
The Hereford Zone is a conservative part of Baltimore County. Guyton is a Democrat but her fellow legislators as well as the county councilman are Republicans. Guyton’s district is more than 80% white.
Guyton said it’s significant that a Black Lives Matter group in the Hereford Zone is leading the charge to ban hate symbols.
“Not just their Delegate who was duly elected by them, but also this really well organized grass roots effort of citizens up here, really should make people double think those stereotypes,” Guyton said.
Guyton sent a letter to the school board and to superintendent Darryl Williams requesting students be banned from wearing or displaying the confederate flag and similar symbols.
But there is debate over who should take action, the school board or the superintendent.
Margaret-Ann Howie, the county schools’ general counsel, recently told a school board committee that principals and superintendent Williams have the legal authority to ban the symbols now.
The school dress code does not specifically ban hate symbols. But it does say students cannot wear something that is disruptive or offensive.
Likewise, the school system’s rules against bullying give the superintendent and principals the authority to take action against things like offensive stickers.
“I believe that the administration currently has the authority to act,” Howie told the committee.
Board chair Kathleen Causey, who also represents the Hereford Zone, said she knows people are concerned about the symbols.
“It is encouraging that this has in fact been something that principals and the superintendent have the wherewithal to manage within their school building,” Causey said.
Board member Lily Rowe questioned whether leaving it up to individual principals if a confederate flag is offensive goes far enough.
Rowe asked, “How are we ensuring as a school system that the interpretation of our policy is consistent across the entire school system?”
Mychael Dickerson, Superintendent Williams’ chief of staff, said the school board should take action and vote as a body to change policy countywide.
“Delegate Guyton is calling for the banning of items, and that certainly should be done legislatively and through policy in the student code of conduct,” Dickerson said.
The rising Hereford High School freshman said administrators need to do more than just tell someone that wearing a confederate flag T-shirt is wrong.
He said that’s not enough for those who are offended by a hate symbol that is pervasive.
“Because after a while that really wears a person down,” the student said.