The William S. Hart Union High School District Board of Trustees passed a new board policy on the display of banners and flags on school campuses. The policy addresses flags and banners “whose display could be interpreted to represent the position of the school district or of the governing board.” The addition to the district policy manual was passed at the Hart Board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 18.
The district’s new flags and banners policy is the result of the controversy surrounding the flying of the Thin Blue Line flag displayed by Saugus High School football players before games played in fall of 2022. The flag was seen by some members of the community as a symbol used by some groups who advocate intolerance and attempt to divide and exclude.
The new flags and banners policy had been discussed at previous Hart Board meetings before the Jan. 18 vote to include the item in the district policy manual.
Information on the new board policy was released to the public in the meeting agenda and can be read below:
The purpose of this policy is to outline the guidelines for the display of flags and banners when the display of these symbols may be interpreted as representative of the position of the District or the Governing Board. The American flag and the flag of the State of California are encouraged at District-sponsored events. Preapproved symbols associated with school spirit are also allowed. Occasionally, exceptions to this flag and banner policy may be made for special circumstances. These exceptions must be approved in writing by site administration and/or the Superintendent.
Flags and Banners Whose Display Represents the Position of the District or the Governing Board
A. The display of flags and banners at some District activities may cause a bystander to reasonably conclude that the flag or banner represents the position of the District and the Governing Board. A flag or banner carried by a District sports team onto the playing field
may be reasonably interpreted as representing the District and/or the Governing Board’s intended point of view. Athletes wearing uniforms represent that they are a part of a District team. When acting as a team, these students act on behalf of, and represent, the District and not themselves as individuals.
B. The District believes that the display of the American flag and the flag of the State of California are important ways to show respect for our country and for our state. The District also believes that certain flags and banners can be used to encourage school spirit. Accordingly, the District believes the American flag and the flag of the State of California, along with symbols of school spirit, should be given priority for display during District events.
C. The American flag and the flag of the State of California, shall be displayed in accordance with the U.S. Flag Code and California state law. When displayed, the American flag and the flag of the State of California shall be flown in a respectful manner, and shall not be defaced or used for any commercial purpose.
D. School spirit flags and banners shall be approved in advance by a site administrator or designee.
A. Occasional exceptions may be made under special circumstances. Exceptions may include patriotic exercises, activities that encourage civic pride and events that honor groups who have made exceptional contributions to the public good. An example would be an event that honors the dedicated service of law enforcement, first responders and/or military personnel.
B. Any exceptions to this policy must be approved in writing by the school site administration first. If site administration declines approval, a written appeal can be made to the Superintendent or designee.
C. Exceptions to this flag and banner policy shall be made in a manner consistent with the District’s commitment to inclusivity, kindness and respect. When a symbol is found to be especially controversial, alternatives shall be considered that seek common ground and aim to minimize division. Exceptions shall not be used to promote any political position or commercial interest.
D. Not every flag, banner or symbol is displayed in such a fashion that it can be reasonably interpreted as the intended position of the District or the Governing Board. This specific policy is not intended to regulate the routine practice of performing groups (such as theater or band) utilizing flags, banners and symbols that are a part of site authorized programs or activities. This specific policy is not intended to regulate signage in classrooms. This specific policy is not intended to regulate student organized clubs.
The American flag and the flag of the State of California shall be given priority for display during instances when the display of those symbols can be interpreted as the position of the District and the Governing Board. Preapproved symbols associated with school spirit are also allowed.
Exceptions may be permitted under special circumstances. If authorized, these exceptions must align with Board guidelines and must be approved by site administration and/or the Superintendent.