FUDC essay contest banned after parents complain By JIM SCHLOSSER, Staff Writer
Greensboro News & Record ~ 8-28-02


GREENSBORO -- Aycock Middle School has told the Guilford United Daughters of the Confederacy that the chapter's annual essay contest is no longer welcomed at the school.

Aycock history teacher Jean Botzis, in a letter to chapter President Margaret Carver, said that after an Aycock student won local and state UDC essay contests last spring, "I have come to understand more fully the philosophy and goals of the UDC and found them to be against the basic goals of Aycock Middle School."

Botzis, who sent a copy of her Aug. 23 letter to the News & Record, requested that the student's name, "as well as those of any other Aycock students, not be entered in any contests or published in affiliation with the UDC."

A call to Botzis was returned Tuesday by Aycock principal Melissa Harrelson. The principal said this is a private matter between the school, the student's family and the UDC and should not be made public. She says Botzis sent a copy of the letter to the newspaper so the News & Record would know not to publish any UDC press releases with names of Aycock students.

Asked what about the UDC's philosophy Aycock School finds offensive, Harrelson said: "It's a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan."

Ellen Bissell, who has served as president of both the UDC's North Carolina division and the Guilford chapter, called Harrelson's comments about the UDC as an "absolute lie."
According to the UDC's Web site, the goals of the 20,000-member organization are "educational, benevolent, memorial and patriotic..."

The membership is open to women "who are blood descendants ... of men and women who served honorably in the Army, Navy or Civil Service of the Confederate States of America or gave Material Aid to the Cause."

The Guilford UDC chapter's annual historical essay and art contest is open to students throughout the county. Winners are forwarded to divisional and statewide competitions.
Later Tuesday, Harrelson modified her comments. She said the UDC contest ban applies only to the current competition. She says her remarks about the UDC being

connected to the Klan are based on information given her by a parent of the essay-winning student. She declined to disclose the nature of that information or to reveal the parents' name. She said she would meet with UDC leaders before deciding about future essay contests.

Carver, the UDC chapter president, said she's "absolutely dumbfounded" by Botzis' letter. She said as best she can determine the student's parents have not returned the prize money or certificates won in the essay contest. The student wrote on Robert E. Lee, the South's top general during the Civil War.

Carver also said she can't recall Botzis, Harrelson or the student's parents ever calling the UDC to ask about the organization's philosophy.

Although the organization's membership is overwhelmingly white, it does have some black members. A black historian, who had two white great-uncles who fought for the Confederacy, joined a Virginia chapter earlier this year.
Bissell said past UDC essay winners in Guilford have come from all races and nationalities, including a black student who won last year. The UDC also co-sponsors with several organizations, including the Charlotte Hawkins Brown State Historic Site, which honors a black educator, the regional high school History Bowl competition.

Bissell said she wonders why the student's parents allowed her to accept the prizes at the local and state level without objecting, until now.

Guilford schools Superintendent Terry Grier said as far as he is concerned, Botzis was simply responding to a complaint by a parent, who researched the UDC after the competition had ended and became concerned. "Whether the parent was right or wrong" about the UDC, Grier said, "that's his opinion." Grier said the schools try to offer "options" to parents when they object to a book or offering in the schools. As for the statement in the letter that all Aycock students are barred from UDC competition, Grier said decisions about what contests a school enters are left to the school's leadership.

Founded in 1894 and with headquarters in Richmond, the old capital of the Confederacy, the UDC's Web site states it seeks "to honor the memory" of those who served and died for the Confederacy; to memorialize historic sites of the Confederacy; and to collect and preserve material "for a truthful history of the War Between the States."

(See UDC continued Page 5)