Recent incidents of anti-semitism and a confederate flag display at area schools is spurring the Leon School District to make some changes.
Tuesday night, Chiles High School parents and others on the school’s list-serve received an email from school Principal Joe Burgess. There had been an incident in the school’s parking lot. Students toting confederate flags on their pickup trucks had gotten into an argument with others who disapproved.
The students with the flags had been told they could continue to fly them, as long as it did not cause disruptions. And Burgess says he also sat down to speak with those students.
“We told them the flag they’re flying is actually a protest flag from the civil rights movement. It’s not even the one that was flown in the Civil War. We just gave them the information to also understand that many of their peers would not see them the same way after flying those flags.”
But Burgess says he has not spoken to those students' parents.
“They have not spoken to me, or made a point to talk to me," he said. "It’s always welcome. But understanding the age of the kids, I’m sure the kids have a lot of responsibility to handle it themselves.”
“I think given the state of the nation as a while, we’re a reflection of that," says Leon County School District spokesman Chris Petley.
The Chiles incident is not a one-off. A few months ago, students at SAIL high school lay down on the school’s field and made a human swastika. Petley says the district has noticed an uptick in similar incidents.
“That has led us to begin the process of developing a campaign for next year where we will have all year long to focus on the diversity of our school district, and work with our students, administration and staff to embrace that.”
In an unrelated incident, Chiles students were told they could receive excused absences from class Wednesday, after rumors of a threat began circulating on social media. The Leon County School system is one of nearly two dozen districts where minority students make up the majority of enrollment.
“When you open up a school they come from all parts of the community," said Burgess. "We may live together, but we don’t live together. There’s a difference. When you have people who come from different walks of life you try to put it into perspective, and you just deal with it as it comes along.”