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Maryland high school bans Confederate flags and swastikas from school property

Posted at 2:20 PM, Mar 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-16 09:36:49-04

The divisive presidential election found students at Westminster High School in Maryland split over a controversial poster that some saw as a symbol of hope. Others viewed it as a knock on Donald Trump. 

But other symbols like the Confederate flag also sparked unrest at the school.

"Actually, we had a bunch of people having flags connected to their trucks.  People wearing it all the time,” said Jakob Hill, a 2017 graduate, “It was actually surprising to see it, but it was in the schools. I have a bunch of friends that are still in Westminster and they still see it."

But starting today, they won't see it anymore.

Superintendent of Schools Stephen Guthrie says both the rebel flag and the Nazi swastika are now banned anywhere on school property.

"While we were getting complaints from students who were not only offended. It goes much deeper than offense,” Guthrie said. “They really were losing the ability to do their work. This represented hatred to them. They thought it advocated violence. So we went through a process with our attorneys and legally to determine if we could make decisions that would limit that dress."

Guthrie points to the move to remove Confederate statues from public lands and the rally that turned deadly in Virginia as evidence the change was needed.

"We have the Charlottesville issue with the swastika and the Confederate battle flag were side by side with acts of violence and hatred and intolerance, and so we saw this change happening around us," Guthrie said.

It is a bid to prevent symbols of hate that can lead to violence.

"You never know who you're going to offend and it's just safe if you try not to wear them," Melanie Morel of Westminster said.

Violence has already erupted among students inside the schools when symbols divide them.

"We had a couple of fights last year about it actually,” said Hill, “People using racist terms and all that and people taking it under a different context."

The superintendent says when students violate the dress code his hope is to make it a teachable moment, rather than a punitive one, in hopes of bringing students closer together.