Carroll County Public Schools discusses possibility of banning Confederate flag items in schools

CCPS Superintendent Stephen Guthrie addresses Confederate flags in schools

In a crowded room Wednesday night, one person after another got up asking for one thing: the banning of Confederate flags on shirts, accessories and more in Carroll County Public Schools.

Nearly a dozen spoke on the topic Wednesday, some young students, other parents in the community and some community leaders.


Mel Brennan, of Westminster, spoke as a parent of a Westminster High School freshman. His daughter, Brennan said, deals with seeing students with Confederate flag paraphernalia every day. And as a mixed-race child, he added, she experiences this as hate speech directed at her.

With these items, he said, Westminster High School doesn’t create “a safe or healthy school environment for her.”


“This is of course unacceptable,” Brennan said.

Following the numerous speakers, CCPS Superintendent Stephen Guthrie addressed the issue. The school board came to a consensus to have the CCPS’s legal team look into if CCPS can legally ban the flag on shirts and other items, possibly including those on cars in the school parking lot.

Guthrie said three years ago, he looked into banning the symbol in schools, but at the time was told legally he could not.

“Since that time, three years later, I have been in conversations with Mr. Brennan and he has asked me to reconsider it … and I agree with him,” Guthrie said. “I think it is now time to do another analysis.”

Guthrie said he would not ask the school board to take any action Wednesday night that could later be overturned, instead opting to look into options and bring something back for the February meeting.

In his public comment, Brennan said allowing Confederate flags is against what the dress code lays out, referencing Page 15 of the student handbook, which reads: “Clothing shall not convey symbols or messages generally accepted to promote intolerance, hate, racial slurs, or sexual harassment.”

He asked CCPS to “immediately” enforce the dress code in a consistent manner.

Pamela Zappardino, of Uniontown, spoke on the issue, and said the flag is used by groups like the Klu Klux Klan as a symbol of terror.

Maryland activist Benjamin Jancewicz brought attention to the issue with the #NoConfederate hashtag

“I think that folks that wear such a symbol may not intentionally intend to intimidate or to make other folks uncomfortable,” she said. “Intention is not the issue here”

For many, it’s seen as a symbol of hate, she said.

Carroll NAACP President Jean Lewis, of New Windsor, spoke Wednesday, echoing calls to ban the flag on clothing and accessories in the school system.

“We, as citizens of Carroll County, have got to take action and do away with the paraphernalia that the students wear,” she said.


Lewis said, as it falls now, the shirts are allowed unless they cause a significant disruption, but with such small minority population in the schools, there aren’t enough students that their discomfort is overpowering. As of 2017, Carroll County Public Schools had 25,255 students enrolled, 21,299 of whom are white, according to the Maryland State Department of Education 2017 Report Card.

But, Lewis added, “the pain that it has caused them is deep.”

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