“As the nation should have learned from Charlottesville – and Charleston before that, and the Jim Crow era before that, and the Civil War before that, the Confederate Flag has no place in schools intimidating our children. Yet recent news reports, and several complaints to our Indian River County NAACP Branch show students wearing Confederate flags in Vero Beach High School. This is totally unacceptable and outrageous in any educational setting.
The first job of school administrators is to educate our children and ensure a safe learning environment. Yet Black children attending Vero Beach High School do not feel safe when they are being threatened with open displays of this flag that stands for slavery and oppression.
The second job of school administrators is to maintain a climate conducive to learning. Black children cannot easily concentrate on their studies when they must live in fear of a gang sign closely associated with violence, as the Charlottesville experience proved all too well.
The third job of school administrators is to teach students the appropriate way to carry themselves in the outside world. In that respect school administrators have failed the young people who wore the flag, for if they went into the world dressed in that way – a world with all forms of social media – they might find that much of the world, including many employers and higher education institutions, will not regard them in a friendly way.
When students are confronted with images that school administrators know or should know will be fear-inducing to any student, the administrators have not done their job. These hate symbols are intended to bully and frighten black children and prevent them from learning.
This has nothing to do with “free expression.” Students do not have the freedom to “express” themselves through obscenities, gang signs, or other kinds of threatening gestures or symbols. This is a school, where students are supposed to be taught how to properly express themselves. The Supreme Court, in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Comm. School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969) and Bethel Sch. Dist. v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986), made that clear.
We call on the School Board and Superintendent to take immediate action to update the district’s student code of conduct to expressly ban the display of the confederate flag on school grounds, except in history classes taught by trained teachers.
I stand with the Indian River Branch as they address this issue with the school district. We are and will continue to be steadfast and immovable in the fight against hatred, discrimination, racism and prejudice,” says Adora Obi Nweze, President of NAACP Florida State Conference, member of the National Board of Directors, and Chair of the National Board of Directors Education Committee.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities.