The Tumwater School District has published a list of frequently asked questions on its website about the recent Confederate flag controversy.
“As a district, we reiterate our apology for the inclusion of the Confederate flag in a ceremony that was intended to honor our United States veterans,” the document states. “The emotions it stirred overshadowed the true purpose of the event. We understand that trust with some of our community has been lost. Our goal is to rebuild that trust as we move forward and learn from this incident.”
The Nov. 9 program, which included a chronological history of 14 different flags from 1775 to present, is a “longstanding tradition” at Bush Middle School, according to Laurie Wiedenmeyer, a spokeswoman for the district.
But the most recent performance sparked controversy, and prompted officials in the district to issue a public apology. In addition, several people criticized the program during a recent School Board meeting.
According to the district’s FAQ:
▪ The script for the program provided information regarding how and where the Confederate flag was displayed from 1861 to 1865, and the different names that were used for the flag during that period. The script also included the following statement: “Although many find some of the ideals represented by this flag offensive, the soldiers who fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy are still American veterans and should be honored and respected as such.”
District officials wrote: “This statement included opinions contradicting the district’s position on this matter, and should not have been part of the program. Inclusion of this flag in the assembly was understood by staff involved to be a historically accurate inclusion of a group of veterans to be honored. Confederate soldiers are not designated as U.S. veterans by the federal government. While some dispute this fact, the district finds no evidence that this group has ever been explicitly designated as such by our government or for purposes of Veterans Day observances.”
The district plans to change the way it handles assemblies.
“Our follow-up with staff regarding this matter will include the development of pre-approval protocols for assembly content to ensure both accuracy and appropriate cultural sensitivity moving forward,” officials wrote.
▪ Tumwater kids are taught about the Civil War.
“In the classroom setting, our curriculum does address the detailed history of the Civil War and also helps students develop critical thinking skills regarding a range of controversial issues in our society, including controversial symbols like the Confederate flag,” district officials wrote. “…Classroom lessons include instruction regarding events leading up to the Civil War as well as the opposing beliefs and opinions at the center of this conflict.
“In recent years, events across our nation have raised awareness, debate, fear and tension focused on symbols of the Confederacy in public places, what these symbols represent historically, and how they are viewed in our society today. Because Confederate symbols represent hate, racial injustice, segregation, slavery, and oppression for many students and families, celebrating or honoring this flag in a U.S. Veterans Day assembly, where our students are required to be in attendance, is an act of insensitivity toward these individuals.”
▪ The district is taking steps to “ensure greater cultural sensitivity” among its teachers and staff members.
In August, it began offering staff training through Cultures Connecting, an organization that provides training on race, culture and social justice. And more training is on the way.
“We will also be providing guidance to our instructional staff regarding inclusive approaches to addressing these issues with students in the classroom setting,” officials wrote. “The district is currently exploring additional resources and strategies to guide further engagement of students, parents, staff and community addressing this matter and more details will be announced by the district as decisions are made regarding these initiatives.”