Posted on Sat, Jul. 23, 2005

HARTFORD – Over objections from many in the black community, a county school board in western Kentucky has decided not to ban clothing with the symbol of the Confederate flag.

The Ohio County school board voted down a ban Thursday on clothing bearing the controversial flag, which some see as a symbol of the country’s slave-owning past.

The board accepted a recommendation from a committee formed to study the dress code. That committee suggested character and diversity education instead of a change to the school’s dress code.

Board members added that any racially motivated incidents involving the flag would be dealt with severely.

Superintendent Soretta Ralph said extra hall monitors would be brought in for the first week of school, and staff members would watch a 45-minute program on diversity issues.

On Thursday during the meeting, the board heard from a handful of people on both sides of the issue, in a room stuffed with black students and parents alongside white students and others wearing Confederate flag T-shirts, belt buckles and caps.

Ray Austin, a black parent and former school bus driver, said students on both side of the issue need to look past their differences.

"I agree that we need to get anything out of schools that stops the learning process," said LeBron Roof, a student who said he would drop out if the flag were banned. "But I don’t see this flag stopping the learning process."

John Outlaw, who led the push for the flag ban, said the board’s decision was "about what the black community expected."

"This is trouble waiting to happen," said his wife, Tammy Outlaw.

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