CORINTH — Outrage. Shock.
Those were the reactions two Lake Dallas High School alumni and others said they had when they saw images appear on social media Thursday of pickups in the school parking lot waving the Confederate battle flag.
“I instantly just got furious,” said Brandon Charles, a 2012 Lake Dallas High alumnus, who attends Texas Southern University in Houston.
He shared his frustrations on social media Thursday, even addressing a letter to administrators at Lake Dallas High indicating the symbol of the Confederate flag “portrays a negative image” of the high school. He called for administrators to do something.
“Somebody has to know about this because it’s not right,” Charles said. “I just want to see a change. I want to see the flags taken down.”
The image of Confederate flags waving from vehicles in the school parking lot is embarrassing to Roman Mitchell, a North Central Texas College student and 2013 Lake Dallas alumnus who also expressed his frustrations online.
“I was just shocked,” he said. “We were just shocked at how things got this far and why.
“People are embarrassed by it. We [alumni] don’t want to be poorly recognized.”
Melaynee Broadstreet, Lake Dallas ISD director of communications, said there is no district policy prohibiting students from waving flags, including the Confederate banner, from their vehicles because of free speech. She said administrators at Lake Dallas High talked with students who had the flag waving from their vehicles about the message it may convey.
“They just wanted to explain to the students how it was perceived by other students in the student body,” Broadstreet said. “After they explained it, the students removed them from their vehicles, and so we were very encouraged about the way the students responded. We really pride ourselves on Falcon family and respecting other people and diversity. It was really a good thing to happen because it gave them the opportunity to get that conversation out there and to have those conversations with the students.”
Three Confederate flags are visible in a photo purportedly taken Thursday at the school. On Friday, only one truck was flying the Confederate battle flag; other vehicles displayed Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and other flags.
Broadstreet said: “We feel like it’s a freedom of speech thing, but we want them to understand what they’re saying and realize that it can go all sorts of ways.”
“We don’t want any of our students to feel that they’re in any way ... being disrespected or anything like that. That would be the last thing that we want as a school district or any single campus.”
In his letter to administrators, Charles wrote that he was “completely disgusted” when he saw a photo of the Confederate flag being flown on school property.
“As both an alumni and African American, any further continuation of your students’ behavior is a further insult to myself, my ancestors, other alumni and my two siblings currently attending Lake Dallas,” he wrote. “The symbolic meaning of the Confederate flag as it supports the forced labor, rape, and genocide for generations of enslaved African and African American peoples for the last 500 years should NOT be allowed in any environment, especially an environment of higher learning.”
For decades, the Confederate flag has been viewed by many as a symbol of racism and white supremacy. Others view the flag as representative of Southern heritage.
Last summer, the flag was removed from store shelves and from the South Carolina Capitol grounds following a racially motivated shooting that killed nine black people at a church in a Charleston, South Carolina.
According to Lake Dallas High’s 2014-15 Texas Academic Performance Report published just months ago by the Texas Education Agency, the school has a student body of more than 1,200 students. Of those students, 61.5 percent are white, 23.9 percent are Hispanic and 6.4 percent are black. There’s no apparent connection between the Confederate flag and the school district, whose mascot is the Falcon.
The display of Confederate flags left some students unnerved. According to district officials, one student was so upset that parents were called to pick up the student from school.
It sparked dialogue online that at times got heated. Some parents even came to the school to discuss the issue with administrators Friday, and conversations were positive, Broadstreet said. In no way did the flags cause disruption to the school day, she said.
“Things were not as crazy as they kind of seemed,” Broadstreet said.
A few additional police officers were on the campus to keep the peace among students, but district officials say it was a fairly normal school day. Broadstreet said it was disappointing to see how the issue blew up on social media platforms.
Sophomore Caitlyn Horne, the daughter of a Denton Record-Chronicle employee, said she was worried by the atmosphere on campus Friday.
“It’s scary. It’s not fun,” she said. “I don’t know who to trust. I have no idea who’s involved in this, who’s not involved in this.”
Students’ opinions on the display of Confederate flags were mixed Friday. One said it’s not the first time he’s seen the Confederate flag flown outside the school. While some students chalked it up as “just ignorance,” others didn’t think it was a big deal.
“I don’t know why people are making a big deal of it. It’s just a flag,” one sophomore said.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.