Nova Scotia

Confederate flag, noose incidents bring calls for more education

People who work in the black education community are reacting with concern to the story of a black teacher on Nova Scotia's South Shore who had a noose hung to her classroom door.

Educators say incidents were a missed teaching opportunity

Irvine Carvery said the 'scary' incident could have turned into a learning opportunity. (CBC)

People who work in the black education community are reacting with concern to the story of a black teacher on Nova Scotia's South Shore who had a noose hung to her classroom door.

Irvine Carvery is the chair of the Council of African Education, a committee set up to advise Nova Scotia's education minister on black education issues. 

"It concerned me a lot. We've had incidents in the past," he said, citing the cross-burning in Windsor and vandals attacking black cultural centres, churches and other sites

"It makes you sick to your stomach. These types of incidents, when they happen to you as a black person, it's scary. Because the whole history of the Confederate flag, the whole history of the noose, just harkens to a very dark time in our history when we people of African descent were actually lynched, hung and murdered. It takes you right back to that."

Missed opportunity

Carvery also served as chair of the Halifax Regional School Board and has been a long-time leader in the Africville Genealogy Society. He learned of the incident when CBC contacted him.

Using freedom of information laws, CBC News obtained emails from the South Shore Regional School Board concerning the incidents, which began in the fall of 2015. 

Multiple sources, including the emails, confirmed the Confederate flag was displayed on a student's vehicle in the school parking lot beginning before Christmas.

'Keeping it quiet does nothing'

The flag incidents occurred repeatedly over a period of months. The noose was hung on the teacher's door some time before late February. 

Carvery credits the school for dealing seriously with the student, but questioned the decision to do so quietly.

"Keeping it quiet does nothing to help in the future," he said.

Instead, it could have been used as a learning opportunity to educate students and staff on the history of the noose and the Confederate flag.

"Not using names or anything, but to educate students as to how wrong that type of action is," he said. "Just to deal with it in a general way around what happens when these things occur.

"The impact that it has on the individual, and the impact it has on the perpetrator, because they too are affected by it."

Students outside the school told CBC News they were aware of the flag incidents, but the school had not talked to them about the significance of the flag. None of the students said they were aware of the noose incident.

CBC News has decided not to identify the teacher or the school. The school board has declined to comment on what it calls a "personnel matter."

A societal question

Isaac Saney, a historian at Dalhousie University and Saint Mary's University, said he would like to see an education campaign to actively discourage the display of symbols like the Confederate flag. 

Isaac Saney is a historian at Dalhousie University and Saint Mary's University. (CBC)

"I think whether a student was disciplined or not disciplined, that's private, and I understand why people keep some things private," he said. "But I think there's a broader societal question."

"It's not a neutral, benign symbol. It doesn't symbolize what people think it does in terms of Dukes of Hazzard," said Saney. "It's a symbol deeply rooted in slavery, deeply rooted in racism."

Saney said in the 1960s the Confederate flag was used as a symbol of segregation. 

"It was deliberately raised in opposition to the struggle for African Americans to claim their fundamental democratic rights," he said.

"So I think we need to educate people about where this symbol comes from. And I think an opportunity to engage in a public education campaign in the schools and in the broader society as a whole has been missed."