Dear Parents, Guardians and Students:
On February 28, I communicated with you about the enforcement of our student conduct policy and dress code practices to better meet our responsibility to provide an educational environment in our schools in which all students can fulfill their highest potential.
Our policy states that any clothing that interferes with or disrupts our educational environment is unacceptable. This requirement has always been present in our policy; it is not new.
Effective tomorrow, Tuesday, March 12, the wearing of clothing with imagery associated with organizations that promote white supremacy, racial division, hatred, or violence will not be permitted in our schools.
I have become increasingly concerned that by not taking this action, we will fail to meet our responsibility to provide all students with safe and nurturing places for learning where their academic, social and emotional development take precedence. A recent state climate survey, for example, revealed that 1,700 of our middle and high school students said that their race or ethnicity has been the basis for negative treatment of them by others.
Students were injured in the Unite the Right Rally (which featured the Confederate flag and Nazi swastika) that brought racial hatred and violence to our community less than two years ago. Our School Health Advisory Board says that exposure to symbols perceived as discriminatory or threatening in the school setting can affect the physical health of students as well as their ability to learn. Federal courts have written that “a plainly reasonable interpretation of a Confederate flag T-shirt or jacket is one of racial hostility or contempt, regardless of the subjective intent of the wearer.”
The evidence is clear and compelling: Clothing associated with hate groups has the potential to disrupt our learning environments by bringing symbols that represent fear and intimidation of others into our classrooms—places where students are required to be in close proximity to those who would wear such clothing.
I want our focus to be on counseling students. I know from personal experience that talking with students who wear such clothing often results in their voluntary decision to no longer do so; most often, they are unaware of its impact on others.
For a more detailed explanation of the actions we are taking tomorrow, I invite you to watch my Albemarle Rising video available on the ACPS YouTube channel.
Please join me, and all the members of our school division, in fulfilling the commitments we make to each other in upholding our values: All young people deserve the best we have to offer. We have a collective responsibility to achieve common goals by establishing a high-quality learning community. We will treat all individuals with honor and dignity.
Dr. Matthew S. Haas
Superintendent of Schools