The Onteora Board of Education has scheduled a vote on a resolution that defines the Confederate Flag as a symbol of hatred at the next Board of Education meeting on November 7. At its October 24 meeting at the Middle/High School, a lengthy debate proceeded on how to handle the subject without infringing on free speech. The resolution states, “The Onteora trustees recognize the Confederate Flag as a symbol of hatred and condemn it,” as read by Trustee Bennett Ratcliff. But the district’s lawyers will vet the resolution before a vote is taken.
After questions were raised, trustees came to believe that between the Dress Code, Code of Conduct, and Dignity For All Students Act, the Confederate Flag is prohibited on school grounds whether it’s on a vehicle or displayed in the form of a T-shirt, though there is no enforcement mechanism is in place. There are no regulations on how to address disciplinary measures on students who exhibit the flag through means not related to a history class.
The Dignity for All Students Act condemns and prohibits actual or perceived discrimination on and off school property, whether it’s based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. School related bullying or cyber-bullying is defined as discrimination or intimidation even when taken off school property.
Teachers at past Board of Education meetings requested that the flag be prohibited on school property. They voiced concern that minority students are feeling intimidated and cannot speak freely for fear of bullying or harassment. Recent Alt Right rallies in the U.S. have exhibited the Confederate Flag along with the Swastika and Ku Klux Klan symbols.
Trustees are concerned that if nothing is done to address the Confederate Flag on school grounds, it may lead to an unsafe environment. The November 7 Board of Education meeting will be held at Woodstock Elementary School beginning at 6 p.m.