New dress code policy for Orange County schools bans Confederate flag

People in the audience clapped when the new language about the Confederate flag was added to the policy. Photo by Tommy Harris/CBS North Carolina

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Orange County Schools Monday night approved a revamped dress code that bans the Confederate flag after months of discussions.

Just last month, a proposed policy prohibited students from wearing clothes that are disruptive, or could reasonably intimidate other students, but stopped short of explicitly mentioning the Confederate flag.

In Monday night’s meeting, specific language about the Confederate flag, KKK and swastikas was added to the previous policy as examples of what would not be allowed.

Last month some people were not pleased with the proposed policy, saying they wanted the new dress code to specifically ban the Confederate flag.

Heather Redding, a member of the Hate-Free Schools Coalition, was in Charlottesville this weekend. She said, “The weight of all the hate and all of these groups coming together and all of the violence, I came back and I thought, ‘How could they allow this flag in a school’?”

Dr. Stephen Halkiotis, chair of the Orange County School Board, proposed the additions to the policy.

“We need to take a landmark step and get this done,” he said.

Tina Partner was also in Charlottesville this weekend and said she was surprised by the board’s vote Monday night.

“Of course, we’re all elated that this has finally happened, but I really wish they had listened to the community members before this tragedy happened,” she said.

CBS North Carolina asked Halikotis about the timing.

Michael Hyland asked him, “Why did it take seeing what happened this weekend to take the vote tonight?”

He replied, “Government works in a dinosaur-like way. It takes a long time. There’s nothing quick about this.”

That policy would have left more discretion to principals to decide if the symbolic speech is disruptive or intimidating. If the dress code plan from last month was approved, every school in the district would have determined, individually, what is prohibited.

Superintendent Dr. Todd Wirt pointed out the district also has a task force which is meeting to address broader issues of equity. The task force includes some members of the Hate-Free Schools Coalition.

The exact language approved Monday by the Orange County Board of Education is:

Clothing and accessories are not to substantially disrupt the education process.  Students are not to wear clothing, buttons, patches, jewelry, make-up, face/body paint or any other items with words phrases, symbols, pictures or signs that are indecent, profane, or substantially disruptive, including items that are reasonably expected to intimidate other students on the basis of race (for example KKK, swastika, and the Confederate Flag), color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or religious affiliation.

Superintendent of Orange County Schools, Dr. Todd Wirt, issued a lengthy statement on the Orange County Schools Facebook page Monday night:

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