Champlain Valley School District delays vote on flag policy

SCOOTER MACMILLAN
Staff Writer

The Black Lives Matter flag is down from a flag pole in front of Champlain Valley High School, where it had flown for 30 days with school board approval, and is now hanging in the cafeteria.

At Wednesday night’s regular meeting, the Champlain Valley School District School Board discussed a proposed policy on flag display but decided to wait to vote on it.

At the urging of chair Lynne Jaunich, input from the district’s the elementary school principals will be sought on the proposed policy.

The policy, as written, would mean that only requests from within Champlain Valley Union High School to fly flags other than the U.S. flag, the state flag or the Champlain Valley School District flag would be considered.

“Requests to display flags at Charlotte Central School, Shelburne Community School, Hinesburg Community School, Williston Central School and/or Allen Brook School shall not be considered,” the proposed flag policy reads.

But some school board members objected to this and felt like it was censorship.

“I was wondering why the policy only pertains to CVU and requests from other schools won’t be considered,” said member Kelly Bowen.

“I myself have opinions on being apprehensive about opening it up to middle schools,” said board member Dave Connery, who was a member of the committee. “And I guess what I wanted to do was hold it to CVU as we introduce it and see how it goes and walk down that path and see if there was anything we didn’t anticipate.”

Jaunich said that one of the issues they had heard from community members in the debate about flying the Black Lives Matter flag at the high school was having the flag fly on the same pole as the U.S. flag or the Vermont state flag. However, at CVU there is more than one flag pole and the BLM flag flew on a flag pole without any other flags.

Some of the other schools in the district only have one flag pole and some board members expressed concerns about the cost of putting up extra flag poles.

“I don’t want to open a can of worms by putting everything on one flag pole,” said Jaunich.

Ray Mainer said the policy “is not written in stone. Policies can be changed.”

Bowen pointed out that as long as the U.S. flag is at the top with the state flag below it, no federal laws are violated by putting other flags below that.

Jaunich objected that this could cause problems when the flag needs to fly at half-mast.

“At Williston Central School, they are organizing. And I’m thinking of some of these organizations that might like to fly their flag, so I guess I’m a little hesitant to vote or endorse something that’s looking specifically at CVU,” Bowen said. “And I’m thinking specifically about the LBGTQ+ community. I’d hate to say to those kids who are having Pride parades all over the halls of Williston Central that ‘that won’t be an option for you.’”

The school board decided not to vote on the flag policy, study the issue, get the other school principals’ feedback and revisit the topic at the June 7 committee meeting if they can get the input by then. If the proposed flag policy is ready for presentation and discussion at that meeting, it could be voted on at the school board’s regular monthly on June 18.

A policy has to be presented at one meeting for discussion and can’t be voted on until a second school board meeting. If the flag policy it isn’t ready for presentation and discussion by June 7, it couldn’t be voted on until September because the board doesn’t meet during the summer.

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