BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ/WHSV) — Thursday night, the Bedford County School Board shot down a proposal that would have banned Confederate flags and other items deemed "offensive" on school grounds. The Board rejected the ban by a 5-2 vote.
The vote comes after several months of debate within Bedford County Schools. In February, several students at Forest Middle School posed for a photo with Confederate battle flags on school grounds. The photo sparked outrage, and calls for action from some parents.
The photo was taken on the school's "Country vs. Country Club" spirit day, and drew thousands of shares and comments on social media, with the parent who posted it saying his daughter and other students at Jefferson Forest High School have been targeted by racist bullying.
Superintendent Dr. Doug Schuch said one week after the picture was taken, the school board had an already planned advisory team meeting with members of the community, including students, spanning all across the county.
The school board held public hearings in the months afterward, which became very contentious between advocates and opponents of a proposed policy banning Confederate images.
"It's very hard to take this anti-bullying poster seriously with this policy in place,” said Spence White, a teacher at Jefferson Forest High School. “The dialogue on race is overdue, but before that can start in a meaningful way a strong message of inclusion is not just in order, but necessary."
Thursday, several activists watched from the audience as the ban was rejected.
Dr. John Hicks Jr. was one of the two board members who supported the ban. Before a brief discussion, he said "I think that we can do what's safe here tonight, or we can do what's right here tonight. And I vote we do what's right."
Elsewhere in Virginia, the Albemarle County School Board launched a policy earlier this year banning students from wearing any clothing with imagery associated with organizations promoting white supremacy, racial division, hatred or violence. The policy voers Confederate images and has been enforced accordingly, with a student who refused to remove a hat with the Confederate battle flag in the days afterward sent home.
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