Confederate Flag Controversy and a DEI Opportunity

There was apparently concern over a Confederate flag displayed as part of a lesson on American History that a substitute teacher took so much issue with that a petition was created that local news and even national news reported on .

Our district Superintendent, Tom Gregory, responded to the incident with an e-mail. It seems that the flag’s use was compliant with district policy, though they hinted at what is to come with this new DEI Task Force:

Many may be aware of the CHANGE.ORG petition created to ban the confederate flag from our schools. In fact, you may have questions or concerns about this situation.

Let me begin by reinforcing that Academy District 20 (ASD20) is committed to ensuring all students and staff feel safe, supported, and welcome in our school communities. We have had time to understand the situation that led to the petition and we own and acknowledge the impact.

Immediately, when learning of this petition, we began looking into this situation to understand its full context. We wanted to understand, “why?” “Why was a confederate flag used?” “Was there instructional value and educational purpose?”

We learned the flag was displayed as part of an 8th grade American History from Revolution to Reconstruction course. Numerous flags were displayed as the class learned about periods in American history. At the close of the unit, the class removed the flags and examined each flag’s historical context. Specific to the Confederate Flag, the class also discussed what the battle flag signified and how today, in 2021, the flag is viewed as a symbol of hate. The flag, along with others, are no longer on display as the unit of study has concluded.

We believe our classrooms are spaces for safe, supported dialogue around historical and current events. We are grateful for the open conversations with all involved. These conversations will continue, and we will engage in further learning to push our district forward to make sure all in our school communities feel safe and supported.

Academy District 20 does have policies about flag displays, selection of instructional materials, and teaching controversial issues. It does not appear district policies were violated. However, as we continue to move forward with our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work, all district policies will be evaluated.

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.

Be well and be safe,

Tom Gregory
Academy District 20

(emphasis ours)

It’s not clear how this highlights the need for this Task Force - it’s stated rhetorically. It’s also not clear what DEI has to do with this but confirms our concern that this group will evaluate and influence curriculum.

What criteria will the DEI Task Force use to evaluate American History or any other topic they’re involved in? What will that criteria be five years from now? If a Confederate battle flag is deemed too inappropriate in the context of an American History lesson, it’s going to be difficult instructing other periods of world history and presenting examples of the symbols used. How does this help prepare our children for the world?

Refer to the May 7, 2021 newsletter  that followed, where this topic was also mentioned without the details of the DEI Task Force prospective involvement.

Task Force Updates

The district’s new DEI Task Force  has met several times and will conclude their audit on May 11.

On their site , you can view their previous meeting documents.

Some of the members of the Task Force are members of a local activist group that Assistant Superintendent Dr. David Peak  met with last year.

What will the School Board do?

So far, the School Board hasn’t said much on the topic, outside of some generic supportive comments and a few superficial questions.

School Board director Heather Cloninger is also a member of the same local activist group that Dr. David Peak met with whose members have spoken at previous board meetings.

Until the Task Force presents their audit results and recommendations, we can assume it will stay this way.