by KIM HILSENBECK
The issue of the Confederate flag at Hays High School is still waving. Or, in this case, sticking.
Last week Misty Meyer of Buda said her daughter M’Kayla, 17, was told by Assistant Principal Damon Adams that the sticker on her car was prohibited on campus because it has a Confederate flag on it.
The sticker, located in the car’s rear window, says, “Rebel Cheerleader.” Underneath the words is the image of the Rebel flag.
“She’s been driving that car to school, with that same sticker, for two years,” Meyer said. “I bought it four years ago from a mom who sold them to students in various activities.”
Meyer said she has not heard of any other students being asked to remove stickers from vehicles at the school. However, she said she heard a story about football players who used shoe polish to paint the Rebel flag on their car and truck windows.
“They were taken out of class to wash off the flags,” Meyer said.
While she realizes the Confederate flag means different things to different people, Meyer views it as part of history. She said M’Kayla viewed the sticker as school spirit and she was mostly clueless about its significance in terms of the imagery of racism the flag evokes for some people.
“They are the Rebel cheerleaders,” Meyer said. “Just like the sticker says.”
Adams gave M’Kayla three options: remove the sticker, switch the parking permit to another vehicle or don’t bring the car to school.
The next day M’Kayla drove the car to campus.
Meyer, who works near the school, drove by that day and saw a bright yellow boot on her daughter’s wheel in the school parking lot. Upset, she pulled in and went inside to speak with Adams.
“I told him, ‘I want to see a written policy that she is violating. Where is that written?’” Meyer said. “He could not produce anything.”
According to Meyer, Adams referred her to the school’s dress code which states, in part, “The district prohibits the wearing of pictures, emblems, or writings that are lewd, offensive, vulgar, obscene, or imply negative connotations, or related to gang activities or that advertise or depict tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, drugs, or any other substance prohibited under policy [FNCF (LEGAL)] [FNCA (LOCAL)].”
Hays CISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said in an email, “The rebel flag associated with ‘cheer’ had an implied endorsement of the flag associated with the student group of cheerleaders. The campus and district do not allow the use of the Confederate flag in any official association with the school.”
The current enforcement of wearing the flag on personal apparel or on cars does not appear consistent with the district’s policy created in 2000.
Through an open records request, the Hays Free Press reviewed minutes from a Hays CISD board meeting in July 2000 under the agenda item “Use of the Confederate Flag.”
A vote was taken on the following motion, “For Hays CISD to begin to immediately phase out the Confederate battle flag or any likeness of the flag from school funded property or any uniform group, but do not ban the flag from student personal property to include, but not limited to, student apparel, cars, personal signs at sporting events, etc.”
The motion passed 6-1.
Savoy said in a written statement, “The need for clarification is one of the findings of the independent investigation into last May’s incident [where racial slurs and damage were done by two freshmen boys to a black teacher’s classroom door]. The Board has charged the administration with providing clarification.”
That clarification, Savoy said, would help parents better understand the rules. Yet Meyer questions how the district can take action, such as what happened with her daughter, without having the clarification in place.
The district’s statement continued, “Courts (including Texas courts) have sided with school districts, in regards to placing limitations on student’s freedom of expression rights involving the display of the Confederate flag on personal property, where there has been a history of racial tension or race-related incidents that led school officials to conclude that permitting display of the flag could reasonably be expected to lead to substantial disruptions at school.”
Meyer said the only disruption was her daughter’s day when the assistant principal pulled her out of the cafeteria to deal with the sticker on her car in the parking lot.
“Given this history of the Confederate flag in our district, its display at Hays High School has been determined to be divisive and controversial,” Savoy said. “It has been the decision of school leadership and the practice at Hays High School since 2009 not to allow the display of the Confederate flag. The principal has the authority to make those decisions at his or her campus.”
Principal David Pierce started at Hays High in 2009.
Meyer said she pays $100 a year for her daughter’s parking permit on the Hays High campus.
“That’s our car. We paid for it. We paid for the parking permit,” Meyer said.
Meyer said she takes issue with the district telling her daughter, or anyone, what they can and can’t put on their personal vehicles.
“Where does their power end?” Meyer asked. “It’s getting ridiculous.”
Meyer said the school could not produce the rule M’Kayla violated.
“The rule is written nowhere,” Meyer said. “It should be written where every single parent can see it.”
Meyer said she asked Adams who the sticker is offending. She quotes him as saying, “To tell the truth, it offends me.”
Meyer said the assistant principal then told her that he would write an amendment to the policy book right then and there.
Hays CISD administrators are working to address the issue with a policy that clarifies the district’s position.
Savoy said the clarification, which is expected to be ready sometime this week, “will explain the history and the action and make specific references to what happened when. We are just putting all of those pieces together and double checking with our attorneys to make sure we are in compliance with the First Amendment, policy, and other laws, etc.”
In the end, Adams agreed to remove the boot from M’Kayla’s car at no charge. M’Kayla and her family decided they will not remove the sticker, but she is no longer driving the vehicle to campus.
Meyer said she wonders about the significance of this issue and the school’s decision to remove Confederate flag stickers from students’ personal cars.
An acquaintance told Meyer she should call her Hays CISD Board of Trustees representative to talk about the incident and potentially discuss the policy at the upcoming regular board meeting.
But Meyer hesitates because she said there are so many other issues going on at the school that deserve the board’s attention.
“Is this that important?” Meyer asked.
Savoy confirmed this issue will not be on the board’s October regular meeting agenda.
Changing the Rules
As a result of the September board of trustees meeting, Hays CISD officials developed a process for improving clarity of rules regarding student freedom of expression. They released the details of the process on Oct. 8.
From now until Nov. 2, David Pierce, Hays High School principal, along with other administrators will confer and gather information, including consultation and input by student leaders at Hays and Lehman high schools, and address the following charge:
“Formulate recommendations for district rules regarding student display of the confederate flag, or other
offensive, intolerant, or racially hostile imagery, on personal property.”
The draft recommendations will have a first reading at the Nov. 12 board meeting; those draft recommendations will be available to the public prior to the meeting. People who wish to speak on the issue may sign up to speak at any board meeting. Hays CISD reminds the public that this item is not on the October, 2012 agenda for discussion or action.
A second reading and action by the board will take place at the Dec. 17 regular board meeting.
According to the Hays CISD statement, the process for clarifying district rules regarding the display of the Confederate flag on student personal property does not include addressing the issues of the Hays High School fight song or mascot.