Northampton School Committee to vote on banning Confederate flag 

  • STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/9/2021 5:22:59 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The School Committee will take up banning the Confederate flag at its meeting Thursday night.

School Committee Ward 6 member Lonnie Kaufman, who is the vice chair and spokesperson, said the committee has been hearing about the issue from people locally and nationally.

“We decided to put it on this agenda because it’s a very important topic for a lot of people,” he said of the scheduled vote on whether to ban the flag.

If passed, the Confederate flag would be banned in school — whether school is virtual or in person — and at school-sponsored events, according to the meeting agenda.

The proposed policy would ban the Confederate flag “given the documented history of substantial disruption to the learning environment in the Northampton Public Schools caused by displays of the Confederate Flag, including the negative impact to the health and safety of students who have a right to equally access the learning environment and have credibly reported feeling unsafe when it is displayed, and the ongoing disruption to the learning environment that is reasonably anticipated to continue by its display.”

The policy would allow the image in the library, in approved learning materials, and in classroom learning supervised by a teacher.

The proposal comes after a rally Feb. 24 outside JFK Middle School last month in response to a recently created racist Facebook page that used the Confederate flag as its profile photo. One post included a video that middle school Principal Desmond Caldwell made last month in response to students bringing images of the Confederate flag to school. The post on the Facebook page stated “we will not be intimidated by this anti-American tyrant.”

The district has said it has notified the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI about the page. Caldwell asked in his video that the flag not be present in school, and the rally was held in support of him.

At the School Committee’s last meeting in late February, many spoke during public comment about the need to ban the flag. Ward 5 School Committee member Dina Levi asked that the Policy Committee “draft a statement on academic freedom that the School Committee adopts that affirms that the types of speech that interfere with the safety of our community members has no place in our schools” She added, “we must make it clear that the Confederate flag and all other symbols of racism, hatred and oppression have no place in our schools.” After she spoke, at-large member Susan Voss said she was “all in.”

Also on Thursday’s meeting agenda is a vote “to refer potential hate speech policy to the Rules & Policy subcommittee.” Kaufman said the subcommittee may look into a broader hate speech policy, which is “something that will likely require more time, more evidence gathering, more discussion and take a considerably longer period of time.”

Information about joining the virtual meeting Thursday night, which begins at 6:45 p.m., can be found on the city’s online calendar at: northamptonma.gov/calendar.aspx.

Public comment is scheduled for 9:25 p.m. and the vote on whether to ban the Confederate flag is scheduled to happen around 9:55 p.m. Other agenda items, such as interviews with new school business administrator candidates, are slated first.




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