WASHINGTON — A Florida school has been rocked by a protest over the Confederate flag, and the local superintendent says the school’s decision to remove it was motivated by racism.
The incident comes just days after a gunman killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
More than 200 students gathered outside the school on Saturday and were greeted by white nationalists who held up a banner that read “No Nazis, No KKK, No White Supremacy.”
A few days later, they again met in front of the school to protest what they saw as the schools racist actions.
The banner read “Stop The Confederate Flag.”
The school district, however, said it did not remove the Confederate banner because it had been a symbol of hate and racism since the mid-1900s.
Now, the school district is facing backlash after it announced that it would be removing the Confederate emblem from the school grounds.
In a letter to parents, the superintendent, James B. Brown, said the school had been told by a private contractor that the school could not remove “the Confederate flag or any other symbol of white supremacy.”
“I am shocked and appalled by the behavior of some students in the public school today,” Brown wrote.
“This is not how we want our school to operate, and I want you to know that I will not tolerate this behavior.”
The district said in a statement that it was “deeply troubled” by the protest.
“We stand united in condemning this hateful display of racism and hate,” the statement said.
Brown said the superintendent has been in contact with the school, which is about 30 miles from Jacksonville, Florida.
“I understand the sentiments of the students, and our goal has always been to bring this type of behavior to an end,” Brown said in the letter.
“The actions of some individuals today are abhorrent and have no place in our schools.”
Brown also urged students to “stand up to bigotry and discrimination.”
The Florida Department of Education is investigating the incident and has ordered the school superintendent to explain why it took so long to remove the flag.
Brown also asked the school community to call the superintendent if they have any questions about the incident.
He said the students “had every right to protest peacefully, but their actions are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of the community we are trying to serve.”