Virginia school board reverses decision, bans Confederate flag in dress code

Alyssa Newcomb
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Virginia school board reverses decision, bans Confederate flag in dress code

When a vote to ban the Confederate flag from a Virginia school district's dress code didn't pass a school board vote six months ago, Penny Blue, the only black member of the board, vowed to not give up the fight.

On Monday night, that same school board voted 6-0, with two members abstaining, to ban clothing items that show the Confederate flag.

"I am very happy and believe it is long overdue. It concerns me it took the horrible murder of a black man on national television for the board to come to this decision versus being open enough to listening to the African-American board member, African-American School Administrators and teachers and the African-American community," Blue told TODAY in an email.

Related: Bubba Wallace, the lone black driver in NASCAR's top series, called this week for the banishment of the Confederate flag and said there was “no place” for them in the sport.

The Franklin County School Board in Rocky Mount, Virginia, voted 7-1 in January against formally writing a ban on the Confederate flag into the district's dress code. The board cited Tinker vs. Des Moines, a 1969 case that ruled students were allowed to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War and did not lose their right to free expression, even while attending school.

"In Franklin County, we do not have any documented cases of a substantial disruption caused by the Confederate flag; therefore it would not be appropriate to ban the Confederate flag and violate a student's First Amendment rights. Should it become a problem in the future, we would consider a ban," Julie Nix, chair of the Franklin County School Board, told TODAY in January.

The racial makeup of Franklin County is 87% Caucasian and about 8% African American, according to the most recent U.S. Census data available.

While the decision comes six months later after Blue's effort, she said she sees it as a positive "first step" and hopes people will be "more open going forward" when black people raise concerns about racism and hateful symbols of the past.

"Banning the Confederate flag in the school system, it is putting history where it belongs in a class and/or a museum," she said.

"I am hoping this time, we have learned from our past and make certain we are not tricked by putting policies in place that appear to move us forward, but actually end up doing more harm than good," she added. "I am hopeful that this time America will live up to its creed."