Lesson in conflict resolution
In recent weeks there has been much controversy and debate about a small group of peaceful protesters wearing the confederate flag on T-shirts at Gridley High School.
It started at the senior street painting event on Sept. 29. A student painted a confederate flag on the corner of his parking spot. A GHS faculty member painted over the flag without permission.
A group of students protested by creating the confederate flag shirts with "GO DOGS" written on them to be worn during homecoming and the homecoming parade.
Unfortunately, the shirt-wearing continued after homecoming, and the shirts were sported every day for several weeks.
Students, faculty and community members began to raise concerns about the controversial slogan. Many commented on the threat to the atmosphere at GHS and the potential bullying of students. Some questioned the school's involvement, stating: "What you allow, you condone."
Students and faculty expressed outrage at the continuing promotion of the confederate flag on our campus.
"The confederate flag (is) a symbol for lingering racism and for provoking discrimination. It is a hateful message, one which evokes anti-black sentiments. In Gridley, ignorance of history and culture is no excuse for exposing children to racism," said GHS English teacher Don McCabe.
"The confederate flag is a hate symbol, and it shouldn't be allowed on our campus," said GHS senior Ashtyn McFarlane. "All students should be able to come to school in a non-discriminatory environment."
Superintendent Rick Rubino addressed the student body's concerns by setting up a conflict mediation session. Rubino, Principal Joan Zappetini and Vice Principal Chris Renzullo invited four senior Leadership students and four seniors who organized the protest to the office to work out our differences.
The Leadership students expressed concern and disapproval of the controversial symbol being promoted on school grounds. Madeline said that though she believed the protesters were not racially motivated, other students and faculty were increasingly disturbed at the presence of what is deemed a hate symbol in many contexts.
The protesters stated that the shirts were not racially motivated and had no discriminatory intentions. They said they felt their right to freedom of speech was under attack. In the end, the protesters agreed to no longer wear the shirts or fly the confederate flag on school grounds. Failure to comply with the signed agreement would be treated as a dress code violation under the current language, which prohibits the attire "containing anti-social messages or logos that make reference to, but are not limited by, the following: racism or anti-ethnicity, white power/pride."
Resolving this conflict in a constructive way helps to ensure that students' future disagreements can be resolved through peaceful negotiation. The conflict mediation session showed us that the school administration values students' feelings and will do everything they can to ensure that Gridley High School retains its positive atmosphere as a safe haven for adolescents.
As long as one has a passionate stance and is willing to fight for what he or she believes in, everyone's voice is equally heard.
SydneyRay Taverner is a senior at Gridley High School. Her column appears every six weeks in Education.