Texas teens challenge school's Confederate-flag ban

By The Associated Press

Editor’s note: On April 22, 2008, U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey dismissed Ashley Thomas and Aubrie McAllum’s lawsuit. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that the girls’ attorney said he would ask the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the case.

DALLAS — Two high school students sent home for carrying purses depicting the Confederate flag filed a lawsuit against their suburban Fort Worth school district Feb. 9, claiming their free-speech rights had been violated.

Aubrie Michelle McAllum and Ashley Paige Thomas, both 17, say they were singled out for punishment in a lawsuit prepared by the Southern Legal Resource Center, a North Carolina-based group whose motto is “Justice For Dixie.”

The girls were punished at Burleson High School for expressing “pride in their Southern ancestry, culture and heritage,” according to the suit.

The suit, which names Burleson Principal Paul Cash and the Burleson Independent School District as defendants, asks that the district clear the girls’ student record, acknowledge that that their constitutional rights were violated and pay unspecified damages.

In a statement released to The Dallas Morning News, Burleson school officials said they would uphold the ban on Confederate symbols because “displays of the flag have been disruptive and continue to have a high potential for substantially disrupting the education environment.”

The girls received their purses as Christmas gifts in 2005 and brought them to school in January 2006, according to the lawsuit. Burleson school district officials tried to confiscate the purses and then sent the girls home when they refused to turn them over.

The girls’ parents have since asked the school board lift the ban on Confederate symbols and remove the disciplinary action from the girls’ records, according to the lawsuit. The district declined.