MARYVILLE, Tenn. — The Maryville Board of Education approved a policy designed to ban the Confederate battle flag from school athletic events.
The measure passed last week bans all flags, signs, noisemakers and other objects from football games played at Maryville High School, whose school nickname is “Red Rebels.”
“This was not an easy decision,” board Chairwoman Carolyn McKamis said to about 75 people who attended the Aug. 11 meeting. Several audience members spoke for and against the policy.
Barbara Little, an audience member, said the flag had been “grossly misused” in past years and is “no longer a symbol that unites our student body.”
Banning the flag, David Thomas said, “will not ease any racial concerns” and may create more tension because people will resent having a beloved symbol taken away.
Board member Doug Jenkins replied to Thomas that the flag represents Southern culture, not racism. But people who feel that way “failed to take the flag back from hate groups, and now we have to pay a little price for that,” he said.
Before the vote, Jenkins told audience members he was convinced to vote to ban the flag after he read an e-mail written by Carl Stewart, which was printed in The Daily Times.
Stewart, who is black and a former running back at Maryville, said he “spent my four years cringing each time I had to run and like it as the Confederate battle flag waved. I was proud of my school and the school spirit, but I despised being represented by a symbol that stood for minority oppression.”
Board member Denny Garner cast the only dissenting vote and said he believed the policy could not be enforced.
In 1999, the school board voted to drop the flag as an official school symbol, which also led to the removal from the school cafeteria a mural combining a Confederate flag with the letter “M” and prohibited the school band from playing “Dixie.” But the vote did not prohibit individuals from bringing flags of any type to football games.