Hays school board votes to ban flag

Code of con­duct will pro­hibit dis­play of Con­fed­er­ate flag.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ciara O’Rourke corourke@states­man.com

BUDA — The Con­fed­er­ate flag once flew from the bleach­ers at foot­ball games at Hays High School be­fore the Hays school board voted in 2000 to phase out its of­fi­cial use.

On Mon­day, the board banned the flag en­tirely on district prop­erty and at district-spon­sored events.

Act­ing on out­go­ing Su­per­in­ten­dent Jeremy Lyon’s rec- om­men­da­tion, trustees voted 5-2 in fa­vor of amend­ing the district’s stu­dent code of con­duct to pro­hibit the dis­play of writ­ings or im­ages that are dis­crim­i­na­tory, ha­rass­ing or threat­en­ing, in­clud­ing the dis­play of the Con­fed­er­ate flag.

Trustees Shaun Bosar and Marty Kanet­zky voted against the change.

Kanet­zky said she didn’t think the amend­ment ad­dresses the real prob­lem, which is con­fu­sion over whether the flag was al­lowed on cam­pus.

When the board voted to

dis­con­tinue the flag’s use in 2000, trustees spec­i­fied that the district was not ban­ning the flag from stu­dents’ per­sonal prop­erty, in­clud­ing ap­parel and per­sonal signs at sport­ing events. Since 2009, cam­pus prin­ci­pals have had dis­cre­tion over whether the Con­fed­er­ate flag could be dis­played on cam­pus, district spokesman Tim Savoy said.

Cyn­die Holmes told the board Mon­day that her son, now a ju­nior at the high school, was pulled from class be­cause he had a Con­fed­er­ate flag sticker on his truck.

“Can I not be proud of my South­ern her­itage?” she asked, in­vok­ing her great-great-great-grand­fa­ther, who she said was a cap­tain in the Civil War.

She said the board was breach­ing stu­dents’ free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

Trustee Merideth Keller was un­equiv­o­cal in her sup­port to at least en­force a dress code that bans the Con­fed­er­ate flag.

“I think that we’re in the busi­ness of ed­u­cat­ing chil­dren, and if a stu­dent has trou­ble tak­ing her math test be­cause an­other child is wear­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag, well, we can’t sup­port that,” Keller said. “If a teacher feels un­der­mined be­cause stu­dents are wear­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag, I don’t think we can sup­port that.”

The board’s de­ci­sion to ban the flag comes in the wake of a May in­ci­dent in which a racial ep­i­thet, “KKK” and the words “catch em, kill em” were in­scribed on an AfricanAmer­i­can teacher’s door at Hays High. Two male stu­dents, then 14 years old, were charged in con­nec­tion with the van­dal­ism and the teacher, who had an­nounced her res­ig­na­tion prior to the in­ci­dent, left the district.

Melissa De­ich­mann, who spoke to the board with her daugh­ter, Tif­fany, a sopho­more at Hays High, coun­tered that the stu­dents were also ac­cused of van­dal­iz­ing other parts of the school.

“It was not just racial,” she said.

De­ich­mann de­scribed her fam­ily’s deep South­ern roots, telling trustees that her fam­ily fought at the Alamo and that her son, who grad­u­ated from Hays, is proud to be a Rebel.

Tif­fany De­ich­mann told the board that she loves the Con­fed­er­ate flag, and that she wants her school ring to have the flag on it.

When board pres­i­dent Wil­lie Teno­rio Jr. grad­u­ated from Hays High in 1986, the flag ap­peared on the school’s grad­u­a­tion an­nounce­ments, he said.

As he moved to ap­prove Lyon’s rec­om­men­da­tion, he said the ban is the right de­ci­sion for the com­mu­nity.

The trustees did not dis­cuss the high school’s fight song, “Dixie,” but Teno­rio told the Amer­i­can-States­man af­ter the vote that they will visit that sub­ject in the fu­ture. But, he said, there ap­pears to be less op­po­si­tion to the song than to the flag.

“The song is more sub­ject to de­bate,” he said. “At least in the minds of a lot of peo­ple.”


Hays High sopho­more Tif­fany De­ich­mann, 15, told the Hays school board that she loves the Con­fed­er­ate flag and wants it on her school ring.


School board Trustee Shaun Bosar (cen­ter) voted against amend­ing the school code of con­duct to pro­hibit dis­play of the Con­fed­er­ate flag.

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