Emotions flared at Monday night’s Royse City Independent School District Board of Trustees meeting as multiple residents spoke up against an incident involving a Confederate flag at the high school.
Last month, reports of a student wearing a Confederate flag as a cape on campus prompted some social justice groups to protest outside the high school. District officials have said that the student involved was disciplined for their actions and said the flag was confiscated.
“One incident involved a student on campus wearing a confederate flag. The flag was confiscated and the student received consequences in accordance with board policy,” District Superintendent Kevin Worthy stated in a May 1 letter addressed to the Royse City ISD community.
Before the people were allowed to make comments during the public hearing on Monday, Worthy read a prepared statement, saying that the district would take into consideration the wishes of the community. He added that he and other administrators are in support of its teachers and staff, along with their work to instill leadership in the district.
“Now it’s time for us to be the leader in how we respond to adversity,” Worthy said. “It is time to model to our students how to deal with difficult situations.”
During the public hearing, several local civil rights groups and residents spoke to trustees about changes they thought would strengthen diversity at the district.
Gerald Guy, whose children attend schools in the district, said he was not happy with how the district handled the situation regarding the Confederate flag, including how parents were informed of the matter.
Though district officials have said the flag, which was worn like cape by the student, was taken up by teachers, several people have disputed when the flag was taken up by staff.
“My problem is not with the child; I feel like he’s only exposing behavior to him that was taught,” Guy said. “As far as the teachers go, they failed our students and us as parents.”
Eric Price, another parent, said he would like to see the district respond by firing any employees that may have been involved in the student being allowed to keep the flag for several class periods.
“As a parent and military veteran, it hurt me to know that there was a racist flag being flown around kids that would look at it,” Price told the Herald-Banner. “People say this flag represents southern pride. To us, that flag represents slavery.”
Patti Cochran, a Royse City resident, had two of her grandchildren attend schools in the school district. Cochran, who spoke on behalf of the newly formed Stonewall Organization of Rockwall Democrats, said she would like to see the board implement programs to support students part of the LGBTQ community.
She said the high school would benefit greatly from starting a gay-straight alliance program.
“If they don’t have some way to unite the straight people, to be behind them just like when the ‘Summer of Love’ came around and white people had to come and support the black people and everyone rallied together,” Cochran said. “That’s when change really happens.”
Rockwall County Democratic Party Chair Judith Matherne told trustees that the incident with the Confederate flag was an opportunity for the district to grow.
Matherne urged school board members to adopt new programs and policies to ensure students feel safe and racially charged incidents are properly handled. She also advised that elected officials review current curriculum for any gaps in cultural diversity.
“These actions will strengthen the mission of Royse City ISD to empower students and shape the future,” Matherne said. “Students and graduates will be better prepared to succeed in a country of diverse cultures and work environments.”