Wisconsin district to consider banning Confederate flag

TOMAH, Wis. (AP) — Some students and school officials in a western Wisconsin district are calling for a ban on displays of the Confederate flag.

The Tomah Area School District's board plans to decide on the issue Feb. 4, the La Crosse Tribune reported.

Tomah High School Principal Robert Joyce said that a student wearing clothing with the Confederate flag has caused disruptions at the school.

"We've had some discipline issues that have come about from this," he said. "It disrupts the learning process in general."

Several non-white parents and the district's Local Indian Education Committee have expressed concerns about the Confederacy symbol issue, said Superintendent Cindy Zahrte.

"We feel there is enough evidence that this is a distraction in our school," Zahrte said. "We have a protected class of individuals who are saying they feel intimidated and threatened when that symbol is worn. It is our job as a school district to create a safe learning environment for every single child."

Tomah High School seniors Josh Holness and Lucy Gordon recently addressed the school board, calling the flag a symbol of white supremacy and racism. Gordon added that she believes the Confederate flag should be added to the school dress code's list of prohibited images that allude to derogatory terms.

Junior Brett Larkin said banning the flag would violate free speech, though he finds it "ignorant to display (the flag)."

School board member John McMullen said he'll likely vote to ban the symbol.

"I'm largely persuaded by the staff and the parents who are concerned about safety in our schools and the sense that we encourage inclusiveness," McMullen said. "It has now compromised our learning environment."

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