Montgomery County’s School Board Tuesday banned the Confederate flag and “other symbols of hate” from the apparel of students or vehicles on school property, effective February 1, 2016.
The Board voted 4-2 for the ban. The only real debate was on whether or not to impose the ban permanently or on Feb. 1. The two who voted for the ban said they did so because of the delay to Feb. 1 for the ban to go into effect.
The small gathering in the board meeting room did not even come close to filling the seats and the most visible opponent who spoke, H.K Egerton, who was not a resident of Montgomery County but lives in Asheville,, North Carolina. He was wearing a shirt covered with the design of the Confederate flag.
Residents of folks from the state just south of Virginia often attend, and sometimes are the majority, of rallies supporting the flag in recent protests.
The board ruling says the items banned would “would cause a disruption to the learning environment in any school.”
Proponents of the Stars and Stripes and other items that display Confederate symbols say they are “recognizing the heritage of the South and the Confederacy.
Opponents call the same items symbols of hate and question the existence of any “heritage worth recognizing.”
Racism and slavery were big parts of the Civil War. Others argue that the principal issue was the right of states to make their own laws and decisions.
Debates on both sides of the issue have existed since before the Civil War, during the conflict, and for more than a century since Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Army Commander Ulysses Grant at Appomattox.
The current controversy came after a young white supremacist murdered black parishioners and the minister at an Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina. A photo showing him holding the Confederate flag sparked an outcry to removal of the flag from public displays and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley ordered the long-displayed flag taken down at the State House.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also ordered removal of the flags at locations within the Old Dominion. Washington & Lee University in Lexington ordered removal of the flag from Lee Chapel on the campus.
Some Floyd Counties objected to removal of the flag and began displaying large Confederate flags flying from the beds of pickup trucks, A rally to promote the flag ran through downtown Floyd before finishing at a rodeo arena in Carroll County.
Floyd County’s school system had a ban on displaying the flag on apparel by students before the latest controversy began. Unlike Montgomery County’s ban, the rule does not cover bumper stickers or other items on vehicles parked in school lots.
Civil libertarians raise the issue of “free speech” in the controversy. It is not illegal to display the Nazi Swastika in public although doing so can create a disturbance or violence. Ironically, federal law does not prohibit burning of the American flag because doing so is an express of free speech but many states, including Virginia, bans public burning of the Confederate flag.
In many areas, the Confederate flag is now illegal to wear or display in places once considered public. Does doing so reduce racism in America or create more anger at those see the flag as a symbol of intolerance or hate?
That question, along with continuing debate over the Civil War, remains an issue of discussion that still continues.
Racial debates at the University of Missouri led to the resignations of the school’s president and chairman of the board. At Radford University last week, about 500 students and faculty gathered to discuss race-related controversies generate in social media.
The Civil War ended more than a century ago but too many of the issues that brought Americans to wage war on each rage on to this day.