SHERBURNE – Teachers, students and concerned residents gathered Wednesday night to discuss student suspensions surrounding the Confederate Flag.
“The fact of the matter is that it [displaying of the Confederate Flag in the school by students] became a disruption,” said Sherburne-Earlville Superintendent Eric Schnabl. “It does have historical reference, yes, but it is what it has evolved into. They [students] know the KKK, they know Dylan Roof, and people can say that it symbolizes being a redneck, or racism, or the southern army … but we’re dealing with the present now.”
Parents and even concerned citizens aired their concerns at the public forum which lasted nearly two hours.
Schnabl explained that there was a petition that was started by students who wished the flag not be allowed to be displayed in school. He said that a supporter of wearing the symbol “posed as someone against the display of the flag” and went in the room with the group against displaying the flag to tear up the petition.
“That’s when it becomes a disruption,” said Schnabl. “We’re not here to say anyone’s opinion is right or wrong or to change anyone’s mind on the matter, but there is a limit to free speech in a public school.”
The superintendent explained that students displaying the flag in recent weeks were asked to cover it up. Those who did not comply were sat down with faculty and if they were insubordinate, some were suspended.
Schnabl said the suspension count was less than ten, despite rumors of nearly forty student suspensions.
“There were more than 100 copies of the flag printed out on a school printer and they were placed on shirts, classroom doors, and lockers,” said Schnabl. “Again, this is when it becomes disruptive to the learning process.”
Said Schnabl, “For some, this symbol represent racism and hate. For others, it represents history. But when something escalates to a potential disruption, we have to take action.”
One parent in attendance spoke and brought his son up to the speaking area with him. His son, a S-E student, was wearing a shirt depicting the flag being discussed. The father asked attendees to raise their hands if the shirt offended them. Less than a third of those in the room raised their hands.