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Hate symbols ban in place in Baltimore County Public Schools

J Holsey Photography
Black Lives Matter Hereford Zone demonstration last year.

Confederate flags, swastikas, nooses and other symbols of hate are no longer allowed in Baltimore County Public Schools.

The policy, which was approved by the board of education in September, took more than a year to make its way from inception to passage.

Students, teachers and others have said hate symbols, particularly Confederate flags, are not uncommon in the county schools.

Joshua Muhumuza, who served as the student member on the school board during the 2020-2021 school year, said banning hate symbols could help change the culture in the county schools.

“It was time that the county started realizing that there’s a lot of animosity from certain parts of the county just because they see their experiences, whether it be racism, microaggressions, etc., are not being heard,” Muhumuza said.

He adds he hopes the new policy will spark serious discussions in classrooms.

“Making sure that everybody is welcome.”

BCPS spokesman Charles Herndon said in a statement that the policy change was announced in an internal bulletin board for employees. It also is added to the Student Behavior Handbook.

The new policy states, “The Board prohibits the use of language and/or the display of images and symbols which promote hate, racial or ethnic violence or intimidation and can be reasonably expected to cause a material and substantial disruption to school activities. Such images and symbols include, but will not be limited to, swastikas, the Confederate flag and nooses.”

Muhumuza worked on the policy with Democratic Delegate Michele Guyton, who last year sent a letter to the school board asking for the hate symbols ban. She said at the time she was asked to do so by the group Black Lives Matter Hereford Zone.

Guyton represents the Hereford Zone in the General Assembly. It is Baltimore County’s largest rural area, starting around Cockeysville and stretching north to the Pennsylvania line. The district is more than 80% white.

Guyton said the Black Lives Matter group’s advocacy “should make people double think those stereotypes.”

Guyton proposed a statewide hate symbols ban in public schools during the last General Assembly session.The legislation passed the House, but died in a Senate committee on the final day of the session.

Guyton said she hasn’t decided if she will reintroduce the proposal when the 2022 legislative session begins in January.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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