School board meeting heats up over Confederate flag at high school

A debate on the Confederate flag heated up at a local school board meeting, with members calling for action. Obion County Central High school alums say the Rebel Man and flag have been a part of their school for as long as they can remember.

The district superintendent decided last week that the Confederate flag in front of the high school should be painted over after the shootings in Charleston, S.C. That made a lot of people upset.

Obion County Board of Education members wanted to address the issue Tuesday night. However, Chairman Brian Rainey says because it was a special called meeting with a set agenda they couldn't. He called the Tennessee Board of Education for permission to change it, but by law they said he couldn’t change a set agenda for a special called meeting.  

The superintendent, Russell Davis, says he’s sorry about the situation.

“I do agree that there was a definitely a different way to go about what occurred, and I’ve already apologized for that. And that's all I can do at this point," Davis said.

He says his top priority is student safety.

That was an issue that should have been brought to the board for consideration, and I apologize to you all for that, but that's all I can say. I'm sorry, and we will move forward. But, in spite of all of that, we have a campus there that concerns me with a thousand kids, and not just because of that sign, but for other reasons as well,” Davis said.

However, Chair Pro Tem David Lamb said he should direct his apology to people at the meeting.

"They need the apology. I want it on the agenda,” Lamb said.

He said he wants everyone from Obion Central County High School to be there when it's discussed.

“I’m tired of everything being brushed under the table,” Lamb said.

Other members spoke up before the chairman had to end the meeting.

“We are in violation of the law by talking about this right now. We've got to stop. All I can say is I'll be in touch with y'all, and we can try to figure out a date," Rainey said.

Rainey said they will either have a special called meeting next week or put it on the agenda for Aug. 3.

Alumni and parents Local 6’s Juliana Valencia talked to say it’s not just the history of this mascot, but the cost of changing all their uniforms that concerns them.

OCCHS alumna Sheila Grooms says she has children in the school system and does not want to see the mascot go.

“I have a daughter that’s in band, and I’m here tonight because of the Obion Central flag being removed and my daughter has it on her band uniform. My concern is, when they do remove it, that we are going to be responsible for replacing all the uniforms. And I think that’s a cost carried over to the parents that shouldn’t be because of this,” Groom said.

Recent OCCHS graduate Michael Reeves says we should focus on educating people about what’s going on and not look at their mascot as something hateful. He says he’s also concerned because they’ve had issues with their mascot in the past with Ole Miss University. If the Rebel Man and flag go, it’s unlikely they can be reinstated because of copyright issues.

The superintendent says they talked to the high school's art teacher Tuesday about painting the sign to its original form.

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