Confederate flag

Nearly 25,000 people had signed a petition as of about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 4, urging Academy School District 20 Superintendent J. Thomas Gregory to ban the Confederate flag from D20's classrooms.

The Change.org petition was started by Hailey Schramm, a substitute teacher, who observed a Confederate flag displayed in another teacher's classroom. When Schramm alerted the principal and the school district to the flag, neither expressed concern with the flag being displayed for "educational purposes," she says on the Change.org site.

"In short," she continued on the site, "it is not the flag that is the problem but the symbolism behind it. The leader of the [C]onfederate army believed that whites are superior to Black Americans and said as much. By hanging the flag in the classroom, the teacher has centered her own whiteness in the conversation of the Civil War, not paying any attention how students may be internalizing that information with a confederate flag hanging in the back of the classroom. By doing this she also decenters any other racial or class's point of view in the discussion of the Civil War. Classrooms are meant to be a safe space for all students, and it cannot be a safe space if a modern-day symbol of hate is on display."

Schramm wants a mandate banning the Confederate flag from being placed in classrooms in Colorado and notes New York imposed a ban on the flag being bought or sold or displayed on state property. Exceptions allow images to be used in books, museums or materials used for educational or historical purposes.

As The Associated Press noted when reporting New York's ban last December, "The display of Confederate flags has come under fire as part of the national reckoning over racial injustice. The rebel flag has been used by Ku Klux Klan groups and is widely condemned as racist."

However, the news service's report also said the ban raises First Amendment questions.

Schramm also notes there was an effort in 2016 by the U.S. House of Representatives to ban flying the Confederate flag at veterans cemeteries. Later that year, the Department of Veterans Affairs blocked the flag from positions of prominence at veterans cemeteries nationwide, but allowed individuals to use smaller versions of the flag on individual graves.

Schramm notes, "Why are cemeteries protected but our students are not?"

One commenter on the Change.org site said, "The flag represents slavery so it should be taken down and burned in all states. It is racist to have it up."

Another wrote: "It's the RIGHT THING TO DO. REMOVE THIS FLAG."

Allison Cortez, D20 chief communication officer, says via email the district learned of the petition when contacted by The Gazette last Friday, April 30.

"Upon learning of it, we immediately began looking into this situation to understand its full context," she says in the email. "We wanted to understand, if in fact, there was a Confederate flag hanging in one of our classrooms, 'why?' 'Why was the flag used?' 'Why was it there?' Was there instructional value and educational purpose?'

"Since last Friday we have reached out to both the guest teacher who made us aware of this situation and our teacher who is said to have used the flag as part of instruction. District leadership is engaging in open conversations will all parties involved. In fact, we will be meeting with the guest teacher tomorrow (May 5)," she continued in the email.

"Academy District 20 is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). We must ensure all students and staff feel safe and supported in our classrooms. We are therefore using this situation as an opportunity to learn, to grow and to continuously improve. We always strive to be better. It is important to note earlier this year the district formed a DEI Task Force to conduct an equity audit of our school district. This situation highlights the need for such a Task Force, and its important work," Cortez wrote in her response. 

Cortez said she will know more about the use of the flag after the meeting planned for May 5. 

Senior Reporter

Pam Zubeck is a graduate from Emporia State University. She worked at the Tulsa Tribune before coming to Colorado Springs, where she spent 16 years at the Gazette and in 2009 joined Colorado Publishing House.