POTSDAM — The Potsdam Central School District Board of Education moved to modify its dress code to specifically ban clothing with symbols of hate groups, including the Confederate flag.
The new section of the policy attempts to better define what kinds of clothing would be considered exceptions to the school’s allowance of free expression. The main crux of these exceptions are items that are considered to interfere with “orderly operation” and “the rights of others.”
“Students have a right to express themselves on school property and at school functions through speech or expressive actions, provided they do not materially and substantially interfere with the orderly operation of the school and the rights of others,” the new policy reads.
The revised code keeps most of the prohibitions from the old policy — no drug or alcohol references, no vulgarity, no promotion of violence — but it makes specific reference to symbols for hate and violence groups.
One of the new paragraphs of the policy reads as follows: “the Potsdam Central School District Board of Education believes that symbols, lettering, or insignia associated with organizations that promote hatred or violence or that support white supremacy, such as Confederate symbolism, and the swastika, interfere with the orderly operation of our schools.”
Superintendent Joann M. Chambers said the change was made at the recommendation of teachers who wanted the policy to specifically address the Confederate flag.
“We were approached by a group of teachers that has been working on inclusion and diversity topics in our district and they really thought it was time that we took a strong stand against hate symbols,” Ms. Chambers told the Times Tuesday. “And I think we always have addressed it when we’ve seen it, but it’s never been explicit in the dress code.”
Ms. Chambers said the group of teachers compared similar policies from other schools before settling on the final wording. The code change was not discussed, but was passed with a group of other policy revisions unanimously via voice vote Tuesday evening.