‘Flag Issues’ Delay Football Game At BHS     

Posted 2009-09-26
Security Pumped Up As A Precaution
By Heather Bowser

BROADWAY – Trouble was kept to a minimum at Friday night’s Broadway High School homecoming football game despite rumors of potential Confederate "flag issues," police said.

The possibility of trouble led to a beefed-up police presence at the game with Rockbridge County, said Cpl. Larry Good of the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office.

Including sheriff’s deputies, police officers from Broadway, Harrisonburg and the Virginia State Police were posted at the game.

A slight increase in police presence is common at bigger games, such as homecoming, but officials said the number of officers and jurisdictions present at Friday’s event was uncommon.

Although two juveniles were handcuffed and escorted by three police out of the stadium, that incident had nothing to do with the flag issues, Good said.

"Over the last two weeks, we’ve had rising concerns of flag issues that could potentially cause tension," Good said. "We’ve heard rumors of possible incidents that could arise tonight."

Before the game began, police removed the football players from the field while they conducted a sweep with two bomb-sniffing dogs, Good said.

The sweep caused the game to be delayed by about 30 minutes because fans were not allowed into the stadium until about 7:15 p.m. for the 7:30 game, Good said. Police and school administrators continued to check fans at the gate once they were allowed to start entering the stadium.

Broadway High School Principal Stephen Leaman was present at Friday’s game but declined to comment because he was too busy.

"We’re just trying to make sure everyone is safe," said Tim Good, assistant principal, who spoke on behalf of Leaman.

Reason For Concern

Last week, the flying of the Confederate flag by some students on their vehicles and the wearing of Confederate-theme clothing led to a confrontation among students and staff, and at least two suspensions.

But one woman, the mother of a Hispanic student, told WHSV-TV 3 last week she removed her daughter  from the school after becoming concerned for her safety. According to the woman, when she arrived at the school to pick up her daughter Sept. 18, she saw more numerous students wearing Confederate flags and yelling racial remarks, such as "white power."

One of the students suspended last week, Paul Lantz, 16, of Rockingham County, told the Daily News-Record, "We’re not trying to harm no one. We were just flying them because of heritage. It’s freedom of speech."

Lantz also claimed that other students were displaying flags other than the U.S. flag.

Following last week’s incidents, Leaman declined to get into the specifics of why the students were suspended, but said the suspensions and the display of the Confederate flags were separate issues.

Leaman said then that some students "elected to do some displays that have caused problems for the safe environment of our school in the past."

The school handbook on conduct does not specifically address the Confederate flag.

The flag often has been at the center of controversy and its display at public settings, including schools and universities, has led to numerous lawsuits.

While some consider the banner a symbol of their heritage and a way to honor ancestors who fought for the South, the flag also has become synonymous with slavery and segregation for others, particularly for blacks and other minorities.

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