Schools should be a place of inclusion and acceptance and safety.
It’s up to school officials to create and maintain a safe and comforting environment for learning and social well-being.
Students, staff, parents and visitors should never be put in a position to be intimidated by individuals or symbols representing bigotry or hate on school grounds.
So all school districts should follow the initiative presented by Niskayuna educators and ban the Confederate flag on their school grounds.
The flag that Southern soldiers took into battle to defend the practice of slavery has always been a symbol of hate and racism and division.
The flag itself contains 13 stars, each representing the 11 slave states that seceded from the Union, plus the two claimed by the Confederacy as its own.
Since the war, the flag has been incorporated by racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist organizations to promote racism and to intimidate and incite violence against Blacks and other minority groups.
At the same time, America has tacitly allowed people from the Southern states to adopt the flag as a symbol of civic heritage and to memorialize fallen Confederate soldiers.
But with America experiencing an epiphany of sorts on racial injustice, many of us have grown more aware of and less tolerant of the symbols representing hatred and discrimination.
In that spirit, it is only right that school districts and other government bodies do all they can to reduce opportunities for discrimination and make their properties and buildings a safe haven against hatred.
For those that might argue that flying the Confederate flag is an expression of free speech protected by the Constitution, they’ve got a point.
Speech, even offensive speech, is protected in this country. Take that right from one, and you take it from all others.
But what’s not protected is using that speech to intimidate others and disrupt education. Court rulings in the 1960s and early 1970s upheld the right of schools to ban such symbols, including the Confederate flag.
School officials have to be careful about abusing their authority to restrict free speech.
But when it comes to the Confederate flag, the actions of discrimination it incites and its long association with oppression, racism and violence, a ban on school campuses is appropriate and just.