Fairmont places restriction on Rebel Flag to maintain safe learning environment

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Photo: Michael Kelley

Fairmont students rally after school in the main parking lot at Fairmont High school.

Cars lined the middle of the street putting civilian traffic to a halt as police blocked the entrances to  Fairmont High School. The new school year began on  Aug. 13th, 2015 along with a new controversy over the flying of the Confederate Flag on school grounds.

The issue has escalated and even appeared on several news stations around the Dayton area. Fairmont is now in its seventh week of school and even though the issue is dying down, it’s still an ongoing discussion between administration, students, faculty and staff, and parents.

Head Principal Tyler Alexander has requested that students remove the flag in an orderly fashion. “From the first day of school we’ve asked them to remove that flag, and they have,” Alexander said. “Students have complied.”

The school board chose to address the issue with students to maintain a safe and proper learning environment for all Kettering students and staff.

Alexander wanted to tackle an issue that he felt could potentially harm others while also protecting the educational system that Fairmont has set up. “I felt that the symbol was disrupting our learning environment,” Alexander said. “As a public school we have the ability to act upon things that we feel are disruptive to the school environment.”

Fairmont has over 2,400 students and is known for having a very diverse population.

Alexander is not concerned with altering the beliefs of students, but rather protecting the school’s educational system. “This has nothing to do with me trying to push beliefs on students,” Alexander said. “I need to create a safe learning environment for all kids.”

Students fly the flag out of the bed of their trucks which has captured attention when driving to and from the school. Alexander mentioned that parents noticed the flag and contacted Fairmont to voice their concerns about the flying of the flag at the high school.

While the flag is capturing the eyes of other people and drawing attention to the school, students feel that it’s their right to voice their opinion.

A Fairmont senior has been flying the flag since the first day of school and feels he has the right to do so. He wants to exercise his beliefs as an American citizen. “We should be able to fly any flag or anything from our trucks,” he said. “It’s our right as it says in the Constitution.”

The flying of the Confederate Flag in today’s society can be offensive and extremely controversial given the different reasons and beliefs behind the symbol.

That student does not think that the flag is offensive. “The flag is heritage, not hate and has never hurt anyone,” he said. “It’s a flag that supports the South.”

Another Fairmont senior who also flies the flag feels it’s a representation of what he believes in. “It stands for the way I live, how I live, how my family lives and I’m going to take pride in it,” he said. He does understand the controversy but feels that he still has a right to fly it. “I feel that it can be offensive to some, but just because it offends someone, we shouldn’t have to take it down.”

Both students feel the educational system is not affected by the flag in any way. It is just a flag and people can’t see the flag from the school because it’s in the back of the parking lot, they said.

English teacher Kristin Allen feels the flag is threatening the students learning habitat. “We need to provide a safe area where students feel comfortable and don’t feel threatened,” said Allen.

The Confederate Flag is not the only flag that is being flown on the back of vehicles. The American Flag is being paired with it. The two meanings of the flags are very different which creates confusion as to what is being represented.

The two different meanings of the flags baffles Allen. “When I see the American and Confederate Flag together it makes me laugh because one group didn’t even want to be apart of America,” she said.

The Constitution and its amendments were created to protect and provide the freedoms of citizens to believe what they want. Problems tend to arise when those freedoms involve hurting or criticizing the opposing side of that belief.

“Being for something shouldn’t mean putting down the other side,” Allen said. “I think the students are welcome to their own beliefs, but on their own space and time.”

Fairmont faculty and staff understand the importance of the issue and feel that the situation has been handled well. “I think that our students here will tell you that they feel safe in this building and have an opportunity to learn,” Alexander said. “And if students are saying that then I’ve done my job correctly.”

The way students have complied with the new policy has impressed Alexander. “This just shows that we have good students here at Fairmont,” he said.

The situation has taken some valuable time to handle but was handled with great care. “I think our school did a brilliant job at coming up with a response,” Allen said.

The issue over the Confederate Flag has died down and doesn’t seem to be as hot of a topic as it was seven weeks ago.

Alexander knows that difficulties will occur in a school with over 2,000 students and recognizes the support from all of those involved. “I appreciate the corporation I’ve received from students and from parents, and in my opinion, we have had a good start to the school year,” he said. “That’s my goal.”