"IN JANUARY, a few Northampton middle school students, perhaps emboldened, maybe bored, after nearly a year of remote learning, projected images of the Confederate flag as their computer screen backdrop during virtual classes. Perhaps it was a political statement, or maybe a poorly considered joke. Whatever the intent, it did not go unnoticed. The school’s principal, Desmond Caldwell, asked the John F. Kennedy Middle School community to not display or wear the Confederate flag in school, saying it disrupted learning and made some students and staff feel attacked and unsafe.
Caldwell’s plea did not end the issue. The issue exploded with an anonymous social media post attacking the principal. Middle and high school students in the Western Massachusetts city then led a demonstration in front of the JFK School, supporting Caldwell and calling for the school district to take action. The Northampton School Committee obliged in March, banning the display of the Confederate flag in all schools, joining its neighbor Easthampton and a few other school districts across the country that have deemed the symbol an impediment to learning and banned its display outside of classroom instruction.
If the move put Northampton ahead of the pack in clamping down on hate symbols, the left-leaning college town of 28,000 is now poised to go several steps beyond that. In September, the School Committee will take up a proposal to ban two other symbols of hate — swastikas and nooses — while also establishing a wide-ranging system in which various types of bias can be reported and investigated. It would make Northampton the only community in the state, and possibly the only one outside of Oregon, to enact such a far-reaching, anti-bias policy. "
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