Days after a Howard County student unfurled a Confederate flag at a football game, two high school students showed up at Glenelg High School on Wednesday with Confederate flags draped over their shoulders.
Rebecca Amani-Dove, a Howard schools spokeswoman, said the students displayed the flags on school property before the opening bell and were immediately told to remove them.
“They were asked to put them away, and they did,” Amani-Dove said. “It has been calm at the school.”
The incident at Glenelg came after a student displayed a Confederate flag while standing at the top of the stadium bleachers during the season opener between Glenelg and River Hill high schools on Friday night.
Displays of the Confederate battle flag — which some see as a prideful icon of Southern heritage and others view as a hate symbol representing slavery and racism — have created a stir in Maryland’s Howard County.
School and county leaders issued statements urging the community to embrace its diversity. A majority of the 53,000 students in the school district are minorities: Twenty-two percent of its student population is African American, 18 percent is Asian and 9 percent is Hispanic. Forty-four percent of the student body is white.
Glenelg High, which has 1,271 students, is far less diverse, with fewer than 200 African American, Hispanic and Asian students.
“Public displays of the Confederate Flag evoke division, hate and subjugation — precisely the opposite of the values we hold in Howard County, and in Maryland,” Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D) posted on his Facebook page. “We must teach our kids why this is such a hurtful symbol to so many people. We must fight against injustice and intolerance in any form, especially at our schools.”
The appearance of the Confederate flag and other symbols linked to the Confederacy have long evoked emotion and debate on school campuses.
Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Va., — with direct ties to its namesake, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — earlier this year removed Confederate battle flags from the main chamber of its chapel after black law students protested, saying they felt alienated. In July, when students and alumni from a Richmond-area school sought to revive their historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the “Rebel Man,” there was heated debate about the appropriateness of Southern Civil War symbols at public schools.
Howard Schools Superintendent Renee A. Foose described the flag as a “powerful symbol of racism, hatred and unspeakable acts against humanity,” noting that the county school system’s policies “support a culture that is intolerant of hateful and disruptive behaviors, words and symbols.”
She said she hopes students learn from the two incidents.
“In education, we look for teachable moments in every situation that life brings our way,” she said. “Even the most unfortunate incidents give us an opportunity to draw positive lessons. I encourage our 53,000 students to understand the sociocultural and historical contexts of all of their peers and act in ways that are both honorable and respectful.”
Amani-Dove, the schools spokeswoman, said teachers routinely use controversial news events in their lesson plans. She expects that teachers, especially social studies teachers, will address the issue.
On Monday, principals of Glenelg and River Hill high schools sent letters to parents about what happened at Friday’s game between the schools and also addressed students about the incident.
The student who displayed the flag at the football game was disciplined. The action against the student was taken “in alignment with our student code of conduct,” Amani-Dove said, without providing specifics.