Code already covers all: Burgess is right to disagree with outright ban
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Changes in the Anderson District 4 dress code were scheduled for discussion at the Board of Trustees meeting on Monday. At this writing, the meeting has yet to happen, so there can be no comment on the results.

But we support Superintendent Gary Burgess, who wants the board to remove the portion of a revised dress code that prohibits wearing the Confederate flag — in theory.

For we dislike the practice of any flag emblazoned on clothing as if nothing more than a colorful way to accent a band, a quotation, a cause or a crusade. And sometimes it’s worn simply to provoke a response.

In late April, Burgess wrote in a memo to trustees that he believed it to be “inappropriate” to ban any and all depictions of the Confederate flag. It seems to us that singling out one flag leaves the door open for others to follow

Occasionally the United States Congress will have heated discussions (usually during an election year) about “desecration” of the American flag. Never in any of those discussions have we heard that the issue was raised of the symbol that represents freedom draped across someone’s backside in the form of a swimsuit or jeans or a skirt. What could be more disrespectful?

According to our report on Monday, there have been no incidents that would have provoked the change. And while we believe being prepared for any incidents that might disrupt the school day is wise, this may be a case of helping to cause what we most fear.

The current dress code is a substantial one, banning “any garment or accessory that displays inappropriate language or images (profanity, sexual suggestions/insinuation, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, ethnic slurs, slogan/symbols that may lead to disorder, etc.) … (unacceptable are) advertising of controlled substances on clothing or jewelry (including) obscenities printed on clothing, any shirt with a possible double meaning which insinuates any type of vulgarity, gang attire, colors or symbols.”

In addition, the policy bans tight, low-cut, high or see-through clothing and pants, shorts or skirts that expose undergarments, even if the exposure is covered by a shirt. The code would be amended to include “clothing, attire/accessories with the rebel flag insignia.”

The phrase “slogans/symbols that may lead to disorder …” covers all possible bases without singling out any specifics. An outright ban might only provoke an incident of a student defying the ban deliberately if only to test the dress code, which could in itself spark an unwelcome reaction.

Burgess’ suggestion is to deal with infractions regarding the flag on a case-by-case basis. We find that sensible. Motivation would be the key, not the garment itself.

When the issue of removing the Confederate flag from the top of the Statehouse dome arose, we supported that removal. We stand by that decision.

At the time of the controversy, the flag was in a position of sovereignty over all citizens, including the more than 30 percent who are black and for some of whom the flag represented a painful period. Its present place at the Confederate monument is intended to remove the political aspect and transform the flag to a strictly historical context.

It would, in truth, be preferable that we all cared more about education and less about the political or quasi-political expressions that might be on something as disposable as a T-shirt that will only make its way to the rag pile or the bargain bin in a thrift store.

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