The Johnston County School system is reportedly looking at changing its policy on the distribution of US Flags.
On Monday, WTSB News reported a group of Johnston County Veterans, known as the 40 & 8, were told last year they could not personally hand out American flags to first graders in Johnston County Schools. The organization was allowed to hand out flags from 2003-2005 but in 2006 were told the distribution was disruptive to the classroom and could not continue.
After the story ran, Ken Parker, Commander of the Johnston County 40 & 8, said he was contacted by a member of the Johnston County Board of Education who said they wanted to rewrite the policy to make sure there is no doubt Veterans are welcome to distribute flags and speak to students.
Parker said the board member invited his group to attend the April school board meeting so they could receive an apology from the Board. Due to scheduling concerns, Parker said he was unsure if his group can attend but they will try. WTSB News was unsuccessful in reaching the school board member Parker said contacted him.
In a letter from Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow to Johnston County Veterans organizations the new school leader said, “We do want our veterans to know that we support them and that our school system does allow for the distribution of American flags, in fact, we welcome this opportunity. We do ask that any group requesting to distribute flags work with administrative services at the central office in order to help gain approval and to help facilitate the process.”
“We are working toward setting up meetings with different groups, including over veteran groups, to gather input and feedback on the direction of Johnston County Schools and to discuss additional ways on how we can partner together.”
Commander Parker told WTSB News on Wednesday his group has not received Dr. Renfrow’s letter. He said the last contact with school leaders was in 2015 when the 40 & 8 members were told they could leave boxes of flags in school offices for faculty to distribute and if needed the veterans would be given a photo opportunity at one school. Parker said the flag presentation only takes 10 to 15 minutes and the group wants the interaction with students to educate them about flag etiquette.
Parker says he hopes the publicity will prompt school leaders to change their policies.
This issue came to light on March 9th when the organization was allowed to distribute flags at Neuse Charter School, a public charter school. During the ceremony Veterans mentioned they were prohibited from handing out flags in Johnston County Schools.
In an email last week, Tracey Peedin Jones, Public Information Officer for Johnston County Schools, told WTSB News the veterans group was in fact given permission to distribute flags in 2015. Parker disputes that account, saying he was given a 3-page policy on why his group could not hand out the flags. “Why would they give me a copy of a policy saying we can’t if we could?”