The WIlliam S. Hart Union High School District approved new board policy with modifications Wednesday night regarding the displaying of flags and banners whose display represents the position of the district or governing board.
“…The policy that was recommended should aim to first give priority to the American flag and the flag of California, along with flags associated with school pride, while also allowing for occasional exceptions,” said Superintendent Mike Kuhlman. “It seems to me that the consensus of the group was to avoid establishing protocols whereby the board would be continually charged with voting to authorize or deny exceptions.”
According to the agenda, the board policy would provide guidelines for the displaying of flags, banners or other insignia when these items may be interpreted to represent a position of the district or governing board. The American flag and state flag will be given priority to fly at district-sponsored events, and preapproved symbols associated with school spirit would also be allowed.
In addition, the policy will allow for exceptions for special circumstances, but these exceptions will be approved in writing by site administration and/or the superintendent.
“There was a call for clarifying that this policy is distinct from a policy that governs clubs and activities such as the flags and banners team and or theatrical performances use,” Kuhman said. “That’s how our legal counsel explained that the way the law reads is different according to different contexts.”
“This policy was to clarify as well that the policy does not speak to symbols displayed in the classroom,” he added. “Those are different issues, which can be addressed through different policy.”
“I just want to acknowledge that you have established a policy as it pertains to flags on school campuses and any exceptions that may come along with that,” said Valerie Bradford, president of the NAACP Santa Clarita.
According to Bradford, her one concern is that she believes exceptions in the policy can be possible loopholes. She hopes that if incidents occur, the district will ensure inclusivity, kindness, and respect to everyone.
“That there is no flag allowed that causes division,” she added.
Santa Rivera, a parent of the Hart district, acknowledged the district’s attempt to approve a policy “diverse” enough to make as many people happy as possible, but she doesn’t think that’s going to happen.
“Exceptions was a little bit concerning to me. It’s left up for interpretation,” Rivera said.
She also had concerns about how the decisions would be made as it would be left to site designees or the superintendent. But overall, there was a consensus among the public to support the board policy.
According to district staff, the policy brought forth accomplishes many things and it will provide needed guidance to school sites and students moving forward.
“If I might say, I don’t believe that there is a perfect policy to address every aspect of this issue,” Kuhlman said. “And I might share with you that I don’t think any policy actually can cover every eventuality. The idea behind board policy is to establish guidance that therefore is interpreted by the superintendent and my staff.”
“I believe that that this draft does provide enough guidance for us to actually operate and make decisions based upon the will of the board,” he added.
Joe Messina, governing member who represents Trustee Area No. 5, had a few comments regarding the policy. Messina also suggested district administration include an appeal process in the policy, somewhere so that it is written down.
“Whenever you think you’re being inclusive, you’re always leaving somebody out that’s going to be offended,” Messina said. “So, we need to be real careful as to how we approach that.”
Kuhlman said he would have staff include an appeal process, but he emphasized that the challenge might be that anyone can appeal and it could, in every instance, go directly to the board.
The governing board had a brief discussion about establishing a uniform appeal process written into the policy, and with that amendment in mind, the board moved to approve the policy with modifications.