Confederate flag near Walpole HS sparks debate
WALPOLE, Mass. -- The Confederate flag is at the center of a growing controversy in Walpole.
The Confederate flag, considered by many to stand for the Old South’s fight for slavery, was the symbol of Walpole sports teams for decades. The football team is still known as the Walpole High School Rebels.
VIEWER VOICES: What do you think about fans showing the Confederate flag at Walpole High School games?
The Walpole School board voted in 1994 to do away with the divisive symbol after a 25-year run.
“I don’t really like it. I think it should go down,” said Marven Jensimon, who opposes the flag.
Yet the flag is still being displayed on private property right next to the Walpole High School football field. Property owner Joe Finneran says he does not want to remove the flag.
“It’s a whole lot of horse manure… If it bothers some people, too bad,” he said. (Watch interview)
Finneran claims a friend asked him to put up the flag at the end of last summer in time for the football season.
“The kids loved it, and they were all having their pictures taken. Hundreds and hundreds of kids were taking photographs with the flag,” he said.
Yearbooks from the late 1960s contain photographs of the Confederate flag, displayed on the sports field and spray-painted on rival Dedham High School as a prank.
Finneran, a member of the class of 1969, was a Rebel football player and went on to serve his country in Vietnam.
“Only I and the Almighty know if there’s an evil in my art. As long as I’m OK with him, let everybody else take a hike,” he said.
Students athletes today largely support the symbol.
“I don’t know. It’s just a symbol, There’s all kinds of symbols out there,” said Judy Feldman, one local woman.
Other teens are passing around a petition to get rid of the flag.
“I think the flag is completely inappropriate. It should not be a symbol for our school. It basically represents racism,” added Ara Nerssessian, who did a project on the flag.
The Walpole school system released a statement acknowledging the flag’s divisiveness.
“The school district makes an announcement prior to athletic events explaining that the flag’s display is not endorsed by the district,” said Superintendent Lincoln Lynch.
A lawyer for the school system who helped draft the statement said there is not much the school can do, because government entities are prohibited by law from abridging a private citizen’s right express himself or herself.
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