Chugiak High bans Confederate flag

Thursday, March 9, 2017 - 15:45

Chugiak High School principal David Legg has banned the display of the Confederate flag at the school after a “tumultuous” two weeks following an incident in which students posed with a version of the flag for photos inside the school.

In an email sent to Chugiak parents, Legg said he told students of the flag ban during morning announcements Tuesday.

In addition to the Confederate flag ban, Legg also told parents he reminded students “that they must have approval from the administration to have any kind of display or presentation at school.”

The Confederate flag ban appears to be in response to a photo taken earlier this month in which five students posed with a version of the flag that had been altered to include a silhouette of a woman on fire. Some of the five students pictured were also holding American flags in the photo, which was widely circulated on social media and written about by numerous news outlets after complaints of racism emerged. The Anchorage School District investigated the incident, but no actions were taken at the time.

Legg alluded to the unwanted publicity in his message to parents, but also hinted other, unreported, incidents may have led to Tuesday’s ban.

“Students, parents, staff and other community members have been significantly impacted both by this widely known event and by less obvious but equally disruptive underground currents in the community.”

Legg did not go into specifics about the “underground currents” he was referring to.

According to a October 31, 2016 ethnicity report released by the Anchorage School District, Chugiak has the highest percentage of white students of the district’s eight public high schools, with 69.37 percent of its students identifying as white compared to 42.8 percent for the district as a whole. The report said there were 20 black students among the Chugiak’s 1,097 students, the second-fewest in the district’s high schools behind South Anchorage, where 18 out of 1,448 students identified as black, according to the report.

In his statement, Legg said the Confederate flag may still be shown for educational purposes.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Anchorage School District said Legg made the decision due to the disruptive nature of the flag on the school’s South Birchwood Loop campus.

“School principals have the authority to make decisions and their schools to protect the safety and social/emotional wellbeing of students,” read the statement. “A recent incident involving the Confederate flag at Chugiak High School caused a substantial disruption to the school environment. Our schools are safe learning environments for all students and ASD supports the principal’s decision to ensure a safe and productive environment at his school.”

Legg could not immediately be reached for further comment on the ban.

The principal’s ban is not without precedent; high schools elsewhere in the United States have banned the display of the flag on the grounds that it disrupts from the learning environment.

Here’s the entire statement Legg sent to parents Tuesday:

Good afternoon CHS Parents and Community,

Your students may discuss with you a statement that I read this morning regarding my decision to prohibit display of the Confederate flag at Chugiak High School except for approved instructional purposes. I wanted to take this time to explain my decision.

The mission of Chugiak High School is educating all students for success in life. Chugiak celebrates individuality in an environment characterized by tolerance and respect. At CHS, we value diversity and we celebrate that our differences make us stronger together. Behavior towards others that is intimidating and divisive has no place within the walls of CHS. Every member of our school community deserves to feel safe, secure and a have a sense of belonging.

As you may know, the last two weeks have been tumultuous following an incident where several CHS students were photographed while displaying the Confederate flag in the school. The photograph was posted to social media and became the subject of local and national media attention. As a result, students, parents, staff and other community members have been significantly impacted both by this widely known event and by less obvious but equally disruptive underground currents in the community.

Because of the substantial disruption to our school environment and the likelihood of future disruption, the Confederate flag will not be displayed at our high school except in the context of the study of the Civil War.

Students were also reminded this morning that they must have approval from the administration to have any kind of display or presentation at school. Displays and presentations likely to be divisive and disruptive to the learning environment will not be allowed.

In closing, it is important for our Chugiak family to celebrate the common goal of educating for success and to limit disruptions that divide us and interfere with that goal. We live together in a great County. We are residents of the great State of Alaska, and we are all Chugiak Mustangs. There is one display that will always be approved in the halls of this great high school and that is school-approved Chugiak gear!

Sincerely,

David Legg

Principal

Anchorage School District

Editor’s note: This is a developing story; we’ll update with new details.