Elcho parents debate Confederate flag at a school board meeting Submitted: 09/25/2017
ELCHO - Two weeks ago, one high school student told her principal she felt intimidated when a classmate wore a Confederate flag sweatshirt. That complaint started a conversation--and a controversy.

On Monday night, members of the community for and against Confederate symbols in school had the chance to speak out on the issue.

Dozens of people attended the emotionally-charged Elcho School Board meeting. Many were parents to Elcho students, some were simply concerned community members.

The school board didn't have plans to make any decisions related to the school dress code Monday, but the board did allow everyone a chance to speak their mind.

"I fly the flag everyday. And I'm proud to fly the flag," said one parent of an Elcho student while showing off his confederate flag-themed arm tattoo. 
"Regardless of what it represented at one point, what it now represents because of our history is this," said Wendy DeNamur while showing pictures of KKK members holding a confederate flag.

People at the meeting were divided on whether or not students should be allowed to wear confederate-themed clothing.

Some parents of Elcho students were concerned what changes to the dress code would turn into.

"I'm concerned that this will be a slippery slope," said one mother of a junior at Elcho High School. "Will we send home a student who's wearing a gay pride rainbow on their shirt?" 
Others were confused as to why Confederate-wear was now an issue.

"This child wore a sweatshirt for two years," one parent said. "Our children here have flown a Confederate flag on the back of their trucks for years, and it has never been a problem. Until for some reason this year."

Samantha DeNamur, the student who reported the Confederate sweatshirt, said bullying is the reason for previous silence on the issue.

"It wasn't addressed for two years because people were afraid," DeNamur said. She also said she has been bullied since she spoke out.

"I was harassed to no end for two weeks."

Bullying became a common theme in the meeting. One parent, named Wendy, said both her daughters have been pulled from school at times because of bullying.

"I have a problem with that flag, but I have a bigger problem with someone who has the bravery and the courage to get up and stand for what they feel is an issue, only to be harassed and intimidated," she said.

A man at the meeting, named Steve--whose is the student who wore the Confederate sweatshirt--said his son has been affected by the situation too.

"My son has been put through the mill with this conflict here," Steve said. 

Steve said his son meant no harm.

"I understand both sides of this story here... but it was just a sweatshirt," Steve said. "It didn't mean anything, and now it's out of hand to this?" 
The school board took time near the end to thank those who spoke.

"This is an emotionally charged issue and everybody has had an opportunity speak, and I thank you, everyone of you, for speaking from your heart," one board member said. "It helps us."

School Board President Dave Visser said the board is seeking legal counsel about the dress code before any official decisions are made. Until that happens, the dress code issue will not be put on the agenda.

Story By: Dakota Sherek

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