Proposed Confederate flag ban roils Orange County Schools

Matthew Roberts says he’s always found the Confederate flag offensive.

But the Orange County Schools Board of Education member says he’s also always thought people had the right to wear or display the flag as a free-speech issue.

He’s not so sure anymore.

“The students (have) convinced me it is intimidation and bullying,” Roberts said. “I was wrong.”

On Monday, the school board will again meet at 7 p.m. at Stanback Middle School outside Hillsborough. The board has been meeting in the school auditorium to accommodate a group of students, parents and others asking it to ban the Confederate flag — on student clothing, computer screen savers and students’ cars — on school district property.

In the board’s first meeting at the school in February, about 50 people spoke, all but one asking for a ban.

Board Chairman Steve Halkiotis responded by reading a written statement announcing a new equity committee would take up the flag, symbolic speech and other matters.

Many in the crowd got up and left before Halkiotis finished reading the statement.

On the dais, Roberts said he understood their frustration, calling the board’s response, drafted before anyone had even spoken that night, “the biggest insult.”

But Halkiotis, a veteran Orange High School teacher and principal, says he doesn’t think the Hate Free Coalition and its supporters are doing their cause any good by continuing to pressure the board.

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