SUPERINTENDENT INTERPRETATION
 
Interpretation's Date: April 2, 2004
by superintendent David Stewart
Section: IV. Students
 
Interpretation

April 2, 2004

James Tolbert, President
WV State Conference of Branches, NAACP P.O. Box 651
Charles Town, West Virginia 25414-0651

Re: confederate flag

Dear Mr. Tolbert:

I am in receipt of your letter dated March 23, 2004 wherein you asked whether it is ?the State Board?s policy to allow the flag in schools, knowing its adverse and threatening affects on Black student and the African-American communities.? You were specifically referring to ?the display of the confederate flags on student clothes and in schools.? You further indicated your ?strong feeling that the confederate flag, the rebel flag, should not be worn or displayed in any manner on public property.?

Please be advised that the State Board has two policies that may be used to address situations involving a student display of the confederate flag in public schools. I have enclosed copy of each such policy, West Virginia Board of Education [WVBE] Policies 4373 and 2421, for your review.

You will note that ?disorderly conduct? outlined in WVBE Policy 4373, ?7.1.1.c. indicates that ?[a] student will not harass another student or other person or misbehave in a manner that causes disruption or obstruction to the education process. Disruption caused by talking, making noises, throwing objects, or otherwise distracting another person, constitutes disorderly conduct. Behavior is considered disorderly if a teacher is prevented from starting an activity or lesson, or has to stop instruction to address the disruption.? Additionally, ?inappropriate dress?, addressed in that same policy at ?7.1.1.f., states that ?[a] student will not dress or groom in a manner that disrupts the educational process or is detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of others. A student will not dress in a manner that is distractive or indecent, to the extent that it interferes with the teaching and learning process, including wearing any apparel that displays or promotes any drug-, alcohol- or tobacco-related product that is prohibited in school buildings, on school grounds, in school-leased or owned vehicles, and at all school-affiliated functions.? Finally, ?possession of inappropriate personal property?, addressed in that same policy at ?7.1.1.h., indicates that ?[a] student will not possess personal property that is prohibited by school rules or that is disruptive to teaching and learning.?

WVBE Policy 2421, titled, Racial, Sexual, Religious/Ethnic Harassment and Violence Policy contains the following language: 2.1. The purpose of these regulations is to prevent racial, sexual or religious/ethnic harassment or violence, toward students and staff, to protect the academic environment, and to assure that our educational institutions respond to harassment and/or violence incidents when they occur in a manner that effectively deters future incidents and affirms respect for individuals.
* * * *
3.2. No student, staff member or member of the public, during any school related activity or during any education sponsored event, whether in a building or other property used or operated by a county board of education, RESA or the West Virginia Department of Education or in another facility being used by any of those agencies, shall engage in sexual, racial or ethnic/religious harassment or violence. Persons found to have violated this prohibition shall be subject to the penalties in Section 8.1.

Although the policy language outlined above does not specifically reference the display of the confederate flag by students in public schools, I do believe that such action is subject to redress should a racial harassment complaint be received or should the activity cause a disruption.

Sincerely,

/s/

David Stewart
State Superintendent of Schools

cc: Delegate Jerry Mezzatesta
Mr. Larry Baxter, Pres., Greenbrier County NAACP

DS/rt