Confederate Flag controversy at Tumwater school

A Conferate Flag is displayed during an assembly atĀ George Washington Bush Middle School in Tumwater, Wash., Nov. 9, 2017. (Facebook screen shot)
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The Tumwater School District is apologizing for a Veterans Day display that some considered culturally insensitive.

The incident happened at George Washington Bush Middle School. 

According to district officials, schools across the district hosted Veterans Day assemblies on Thursday to honor those who have served this country.  

Part of the assembly at Bush Middle School involved a presentation by student leadership that showed 14 different flags from American history, dating back to 1775.  

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In a letter that went home to Bush Middle School families the district said this:

"Among the flags displayed was a Confederate Flag and one of the students holding the flag was a student of color.  This leadership student was not assigned to this specific flag, but the student holders got out of order during the program.  Nevertheless, the presence of the flag itself in this program failed to honor our commitment to ensure a safe, respectful, and culturally sensitive school environment at all times.  We extend our sincere apology to this student, her family, and all others offended by this incident.  We will work with staff to ensure this and other programs are carefully planned to ensure an inclusive school environment."

Several concerned community members showed up at the school board meeting on Thursday evening to express their disappointment.

"While I understand that a Confederate Flag did take place in this nation, as did slavery, I find it necessary to point out that while many say it's a symbol of heritage and not hate, we must understand and recall the heritage was hate, and slavery, and segregation," said Dr. Karen Johnson, during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Karen Milliman, a former teacher in the Tumwater School District, agreed.

"I just have no tolerance for that flag because it represents something that is ugly in our history and we need to bury it," said Milliman. "I felt like crying, then I got mad, then I got crying again because that's not who I want to be associated with."

Tumwater Superintendent John Bash addressed the issue at the beginning of the meeting and apologized again that it happened. 

"Having the flag there at all was an act of insensitivity and failed to meet our standards for safe and respectful and culturally sensitive school environments," he said.

Bash said he had already spoken with the family of the student of color who had to hold the Confederate Flag.

"I reached out to the student's family today to not only inform them what happened but on behalf of the Tumwater School District, to apologize for this particular incident and to assure them that we'll continue to look into the matter and work with all of our staff to ensure this program and programs like it are designed and planned in a way that we respect all of our students and all of our guests," Bash said.

During her turn at the podium, Johnson thanked Bash for the way the district responded.

The president of the Tumwater Education Association said he hoped this would serve as a teachable moment for the entire district.

"I believe this was an honest mistake by a teacher that had unintended consequences.  ut at the same time, we do have to be very cognizant and very aware of the messages we send out to kids in our community," said Tim Voie. "And I hope that our talented and professional teachers in our district can use this as an opportunity for a teachable moment, to have those difficult conversations with our kids."