There’s also a 1814 flag, a Grand Union Flag from 1775-77, and a less recognizable “Stars & Bars” Confederate flag from 1861, among others. Three much larger, more current American flags also hang in the hallways — one that was flown from the U.S. Capitol building, another emblazoned with the names of Sept. 11 victims, and a third that was flown from a Blackhawk helicopter fighting in Iraq in 2008.
Meadows says the Confederate flag belongs in a museum, not a school. But school officials respond that Sunset Lakes was designed to be a sort of mini-museum, and as such, the country’s difficult and even awful moments in time deserve a spot on its walls.
“We have to learn from history’s mistakes,” Charpentier said. “That’s the only way that we’re going to grow as a nation.”
Sunset Lakes’ unique design was the brainchild of former Principal Linda McDaniel, who retired about a year and a half ago. McDaniel said she received a couple of parent complaints about the Confederate flag over the years, but those parents settled down after she explained the school’s U.S. history focus.
“I was not the one that designed everything,” McDaniel said. “We had a committee of people that designed it, and we had African-American people on the committee.”
Some of the historical murals at Sunset Lakes are playful, such as a “Life in the 1980s” painting that features Cabbage Patch dolls, a Miami Vice logo, and the faces of E.T. and Superman.
Others are more solemn. A Sept. 11 mural shows the two World Trade Center towers with smoke billowing out, and a second plane about to make impact. A “Holocaust in Europe” mural shows a Nazi soldier pointing a gun at a little boy.
“I had friends’ parents that were in the Holocaust,” said Hope Leonard, an Exceptional Student Education specialist at Sunset Lakes who is Jewish. “When I walk by, I feel sad, but I understand the concept ... this is a teaching tool for every student in the school.”
How would she feel if that mural contained a swastika?
“I open up a history book and I see a swastika,” Leonard said. “I don’t like it, but it’s part of history.”