The Confederate Flag: A Symbol of the Past or Present in Schools?

The Civil War ended 150 years ago, however the issue of the Confederate flag has not disappeared with the war. The Confederacy is well alive in not only history textbooks, but on clothing, and flags. This brings up the big question; Can public schools ban the Confederate flag on their campuses? Does banning the Confederate flag violate the First Amendment? First to argue against the issue was Christiansburg High School in Virginia. A group of students began a demonstration when a student was punished for wearing a t-shirt with the Confederate flag on it. The students disagreed with the punishment, so they protested.  The Washington Post described the incident as a “peaceful student demonstration”. Those students who protested ended up getting suspended. The First Amendment includes Peaceable Assemblies, meaning that the people must be allowed to meet, protest, and march. The students at Christiansburg High School did just that, and did not show any harm to any persons nearby. One might say their t-shirts and flags are protected by Freedom of Speech, which explains how citizens are allowed to express themselves. But are there limits? Do those rights stop when students enter the school grounds?

In another case at Lakeside Middle School, a student showed up to school wearing a jacket with a Confederate flag on it. He was asked to remove the jacket, and when he refused, was suspended multiple times. The student ended up taking the case to court. Judge William B. Traxler Jr. ruled for the school district, basing his decision on three U.S. Supreme Court decisions: Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District in 1969, Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser in 1986, and Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier in 1988. Tinker v. Des Moines, and Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser ruled student’s rights are not as flexible as adult’s rights would be in other settings. Lastly, in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier it was ruled that school administrators can’t punish students because they don’t agree with their expression, but they can if it is disrupting the school or people in the school.

The issue of the Confederate flags in public schools is it’s a very grey area. There are lots of technicalities that go along with the issue; the history of the school’s racial problems, violence, disruption and so on. It depends on the school and the students inside of it. Students are backed with the First Amendment to some extent, but there are limits in a school zone. Although, the school itself has to think about protecting other students in the school, as long as no person or their rights are harmed; if a student wishes to wear a t-shirt with the Confederate flag, they should be allowed to. The First Amendment protects them under Freedom of Speech, Peaceable Assembly and Symbolic Speech. If there were to be a clear obscenity, fighting words, or danger of other students, that student would not have their rights protected and would have to follow what the school says. In conclusion, students should be allowed to wear the Confederate flag in schools, as long as it isn’t disrupting the school or students in anyway or bringing up bad history that the school has.

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