At its final meeting of the year Dec. 17, the Hays CISD school board voted to insert language into the student code of conduct that will ban the display of the Confederate flag from student property.
The ban comes 12 years after the school board voted to phase out the use of the Confederate battle flag from school-funded property and uniforms.
After that vote in 2000, the issue remained dormant until May, when two students vandalized school property with racist graffiti. The letters “KKK” and the words “Catch ‘em, Kill ‘em” were etched into the door of an African-American teacher’s classroom at Hays High School.
At the Dec. 17 meeting, Melissa Deichmann, a Kyle resident and Hays High School parent, addressed the board during the public forum.
“It’s not the Confederate flag that causes the disciplinary problem,” Deichmann said. “There were two students who chose bad behavior on a Saturday in Saturday school. They also vandalized the baseball field. It was not just racial. They attacked many things.”
Deichmann cited a district report on the 2011-2012 school year that found the disciplinary rate at Hays High School was 3.2 percent compared to 5.7 percent of students at Lehman High, where the school’s logo is a lobo and a five-point star. The disciplinary rate takes the number of incidents requiring discipline and divides it by the student population.
The district compiled a report on the causes of the vandalism in May, and there was some concern among parents and students that the board would recommend changing the high school mascot, the Rebel, as well as the school’s fight song. Those recommendations were never made, but it was decided that the board would seek “clarification of district rules regarding dress codes and limits of student freedom of expression.”
At the same meeting in September, board Secretary Shaun Bosar expressed concern that the wording in the code of conduct did not give principals a clear definition of the rule they were enforcing. He addressed those concerns again Dec. 17.
““I brought up a recommendation that we get a clarification to equip our principals of our high schools to give them the tools to accurately and with fidelity, implement this type of procedure…and I brought up that if I deem or the administration deems that wearing purple on a gray day is inappropriate, then let’s put that [in the code of conduct] and equip our principals so they can have a concrete way of implementing this procedure, policy, code of conduct, and it has totally morphed, from my perspective, into this Confederate flag issue,” Bosar said.
Bosar expressed concern that the language of the amended code of conduct leaves the issue open to the “principal or designee’s judgment.”
“Obviously we have had issues where that judgment—they did not have enough tools in their tool belt to make that judgment,” he said.
School board President Willie Tenorio said there had been "uneven" enforcement of the rule. One parent said her son was pulled from his chemistry lab and told to remove the confederate flag sticker he had on the back of his car.
“The administration studied the issue with input from teachers and students, and the recommendation is to affirm what our administrators were already doing, which is to continue the ban on the flag on clothing and personal property,” Tenorio said.
After nearly two hours of discussion, the issue went to a vote where it was approved 5-2. Bosar and Marty Kanetzky were the two “nay” votes.
Jeff Reeves, a Hays County resident who spoke during the public forum, said the issue was being used by the administration “to further the political agenda of a superintendent who won’t be around to work out the details of enforcement.”
Reeves said the school board failed to prove there was any evidence of racial tensions.
“My thoughts on the decision are that they were based on personal beliefs and not case law, which is illegal,” Reeves said after the vote. “That decision has subjected the school district to a lawsuit if someone so pursues.”
Because the ban was already being enforced by administrators, it is effective immediately.