Published: July 21, 2009

School board upholds Confederate flag brochure decision
Kristin Harty
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Former Superintendent of Schools Bill AuMiller is three weeks into retirement, but his decision to ban the distribution of Confederate flag brochures at Allegany County middle schools still stands.

The Allegany County Board of Education publicly released an eight-page opinion Tuesday afternoon, saying AuMiller’s decision was neither “illegal, arbitrary or unreasonable” and should be upheld. In its ruling, the board declined to pay attorney’s fees or the $408.34 it cost a local nonprofit group to produce the brochures.

“When the superintendent had the initial opportunity to review the brochure, he was only able to review the inside of the brochure,” the opinion states, outlining the reasons AuMiller initially gave the go-ahead for the brochure last spring. After seeing the final product in April, he changed his mind, saying that Christian imagery on the front and back of the brochure was inappropriate.

Produced by the Cumberland Historic Cemetery Organization, the four-page brochure briefly describes the evolution of the flag and includes several renderings of how it developed. President Ed Taylor has indicated it was meant to quell misunderstandings about the meaning of the flag in the wake of several racially charged incidents in the schools over the last two years.

During the 2007-2008 school year, the principal of Fort Hill High School restricted the display of the Confederate flag on school property after it was used as a tool for intimidation. Several Allegany County citizens asked the board to ban the flag permanently on school grounds, but the board declined.

In its opinion, voted on at a July 14 executive session, the board said the superintendent has the authority to determine whether materials are appropriate for distribution in the schools and it must defer to his decision unless it is “illegal, arbitrary or unreasonable.”

Taylor wasn’t available to comment Tuesday, but has indicated he would appeal an unfavorable decision to the Maryland Board of Education.

The brochure includes a disclaimer stating: “The Cumberland Historic Cemetery Organization condemns any individual or organization that uses these historic American flags to intimidate or participate in racially discriminatory practices.”

Earlier this month, two area residents again implored board members to ban the Confederate flag — and other “inflammatory symbols” — on school property. The board has so far not addressed that broader issue.

Associated Press content © 2009.

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