BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Bloomington High School South has banned students from wearing the Confederate battle flag on their clothing, backpacks or other items after the contentious symbol caused several recent disturbances at the school.
South Principal Mark Fletcher cited Supreme Court decisions as a guideline to the ban on the flags flown by Rebel troops during the Civil War. The ban took effect on Oct. 27.
“The Supreme Court has made it perfectly clear that if continued disruption occurs, we are compelled to act,” Fletcher said. “It can’t be just the fear of disruptions, but if you, in fact, do have disruptions, the Court expects you to act.”
(The Supreme Court ruled in its 1969 decision Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District that public school officials could only censor student expression if they could reasonably forecast that the student expression would cause substantial disruption or material interference with school activities or would invade the rights of others.)
The ban is not a districtwide policy, because other buildings might not have had documented cases of disruption. The district’s other school Bloomington North, currently has no such policy.
Bloomington South administrators conducted a meeting with about 40 students on Oct. 27 to discuss the flag ban. Older students counseled younger ones about the change.
Bloomington South junior Justin Kirby, who used to display the Confederate battle flag on his clothing, said he now better understands that the flag’s symbolism is disruptive.
“One reason I wore it is because I supposedly had family members in the Confederate armies during the Civil War,” Kirby said. “A lot of my family is from Texas. And as a NASCAR fan, that flag is all over the track all the time, and that’s when I first started wearing it.”
Seniors Jordan Brown and Tyree Wells, who are both black, said the Confederate flag doesn’t evoke pleasant images for them and for many of their fellow students.
“To many African-Americans, and just people all across the board ethnically, it symbolizes racism, discrimination and death. Since the Civil War, it’s been used by the Ku Klux Klan and numerous neo-Nazi groups,” Brown said.
“If I went onto a Klan Web site, right now, I think it’s pretty much guaranteed I’d see that flag.”