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Academy School District 20 superintendent Tom Gregory responded to an online petition to ban the display of the Confederate flag in district classrooms.

A Colorado Springs substitute teacher wants the Confederate flag banned from her district’s classrooms, and thousands of people appear to agree.

Hailey Schramm, a substitute teacher for Academy School District 20, has circulated an online petition requesting that her district — and the entire state — eliminate the display of the banner in all classrooms. By the end of the day April 29, the petition had accumulated more than 17,000 signatures.

Schramm said she recently noticed a Confederate flag on display in a classroom while she was filling in for an absent teacher.

“I was just walking by a classroom, and a door was open, and it caught my eye,” said Schramm, a first-year substitute. “I did a double-take. There were two of them hanging in the back of the classroom.”

The sight of the banners left her so stunned that she didn’t know how to react at first, she said.

“It left me breathless,” Schramm said. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

She continued, “In my opinion, schools and classrooms are a safe zone for learning.”

The sight of the flag haunted Schramm for the remainder of her workday, she said. She wasn’t sure what to do about what she had seen. But she knew she had to do something.

“I went home and talked to my roommates about the situation,” she said. “We decided that I should report it to (District 20) human resources, and take it from there.”

Her conversation with a district representative left her puzzled, however, she said.

“They essentially deemed it OK to have a Confederate flag in the classroom as long as it’s being used for educational purposes,” she said.

Next, Schramm spoke with the school’s principal. “He said that I had misunderstood the situation, and that I needed context,” she said.

Finally, Schramm spoke with the teacher who had displayed the banners. The conversation was civil, she said, but it left her dissatisfied — and even more determined.

“She didn’t consider how kids, regardless if they’re students of color or not, can internalize what that flag means,” Schramm said of the social studies teacher.

Shortly after her talk with the teacher, Schramm started the petition on Change.org.

“It’s a symbol of hate and intolerance,” she said of the Confederate flag. “I can’t imagine how students — especially Black students — feel with a symbol of white supremacy and hatred hanging in their classroom.”

After two or three days of monitoring the site and seeing only 20 or 30 signatures, Schramm turned her attention to other matters, like graduate school, where she is studying for a master’s in educational psychology.

At some point, however, the number of signatures exploded without her knowledge.

“The flag represents slavery, so it should be taken down and burned in all states,” wrote one petition signee.

Another signee agreed, calling the banner a symbol of “divisiveness, intolerance, white supremacy and hate.”

Schramm was floored at the traction the petition gained in just a few days.

The rookie substitute teacher is far from finished; she said she plans to speak with District’s 20’s superintendent, J. Thomas Gregory, as well as the Board of Education, the district’s policymaking body.

District spokeswoman Allison Cortez said the district was unaware of the petition and plans to determine whether the banner display is in keeping with district policies concerning flag displays and the teaching of controversial issues.

“Academy District 20 is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and ensuring all students and staff feel safe and supported in their classrooms,” Cortez said. “We are looking into this situation to understand its full context. If, in fact, there is a confederate flag hanging in one of our classrooms, we are asking, ‘why?’ Why was the flag used? Was there instructional value and educational purpose?”

Schramm said she’d like to see the flag eliminated from every classroom in the state, citing as precedent New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2020 signing of a law banning its display on state property.

“You can teach about the Civil War without displaying that flag,” she said. “It has no place in the classroom.”

Contact the writer: odell.isaac@gazette.com

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