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Confederate battle flag to remain in Epsom Central School mural

By MELISSA PROULX
Union Leader Correspondent

September 06. 2017 12:35PM
The confederate battle flag that is a part of a mural at Epsom Central School (inset) will remain. The mural was commissioned using a former school board member's stipend about a decade ago. (Melissa Proulx/Correspondent)

EPSOM — A mural in the town's elementary school will continue to include a Confederate battle flag after the school board voted 3-2 Tuesday night to keep it. The mural of the United States is outside the school's gym and depicts some of the nation's historical symbols, including a Confederate flag.

Jan Santosuosso, a special education teacher at Epsom Central School, raised concerns about the flag's inclusion, saying she's made similar requests to have the flag removed from the mural since it was painted about a decade ago.

"I just don't think, in this public space, it needs to be here," Santosuosso said.

She said her intent was not to erase part of the country's history but to replace it with a historically accurate symbol that has the same intent as the flag — representing the Civil War as a part of the country's history.

Santosuosso suggested using a Confederate flag with a different design next to an American flag from that time period and listing the dates of the war, or using Union and Confederate hats to represent the opposing sides.

"Both speak to the Civil War, both are the same size, both take out any current controversial feelings about that symbol," she said of the flag.

The packed room was split on the issue Tuesday night.

Some vehemently opposed a change.

"If we don't know history and where we've been, I don't think we're going to know where we're going," said Frank Penny. "We can't erase that thing, it's a fact. It happened."

Others argued that if the flag is not removed from the mural, then it should be modified to provide more context as to what it symbolizes.

"Let's leave history as it is (and) adjust things as it needs to be adjusted," said Georgia Perry.

Steven Patterson, a seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher, said he was taking a neutral stance on the mural and was in favor of keeping conversations going to encourage critical thinking.

"I will be teaching your children history, good or bad," he said. "I'm going to give them the big picture of everything."

School Board Chairman Dave Cummings said he would like the issue to be an item at the board's next meeting.

"I'd like to hear how it's going — what the reaction's been in the school," Cummings said. "It's been a pretty significant issue."

But future discussion won't change Tuesday's vote.

"That's a done deal," Cummings said.


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