HAYS COUNTY -- At Hays High, history runs deep. Founded in 1968, the district's oldest high school offers a glimpse even further into the past. Until 12 years ago, the rebel mascot came with a confederate flag, before officials banned it for district use.
"You can debate it endlessly as to what the meaning of the confederate flag is," said Superintendent Jeremy Lyon, who says arguments fall short of the present picture. "I do have a great respect for history but the reality is that it's a racially insensitive symbol."
Which is why Monday night, school board members voted to extend the ban to students. No flags on clothing, cars, anywhere on district property.
"Can I not be proud of my southern heritage," said one parent.
"I am proud to be an American," said another. "I am honored to be a southerner. You can be both without regret."
The flag conversation started in earnest following a student prank last May. An African-American teacher found her door covered in racial slurs. For both sides, the focus wasn't on race, but rights.
"One of the key principles that I think we're getting into with the way this recommendation is worded is freedom of expression," said one student's mother.
"I want every student who comes to Hays High School to feel welcome and to not feel intimidated or discriminated against or harassed in any way," said board trustee Marty Kanetzky.
In the end, a 5-2 vote gave students the right to attend a school minus any sign of a rebel flag. A step away from the past that some say leads to a better future.
The ban on the confederate flag goes into effect immediately. Board members said the question of whether to retire the unofficial fight song of Dixie will also be addressed in due time.