Md. high school racial tension promps Confederate-flag ban

By The Associated Press
03.14.08

CUMBERLAND, Md. — A high school principal has banned Confederate flags from vehicles and clothing on school grounds after an outbreak of racial hostility led to suspensions of at least two students.

Stephen Lewis, principal of Fort Hill High School in Cumberland, said March 11 he issued the edict because some white students had begun using the rebel flag to intimidate and harass black students.

"Symbolism started to be used for racism and we just put a stop to it," Lewis said. He said he had heard no complaints since he issued the ban on March 7.

Black students compose no more than 10% of the school's approximately 1,000 students, Lewis said. He said racial tension had surfaced at the school in the last 10 days for unknown reasons.

The Cumberland Times-News reported that some black students and their parents who attended a meeting March 10 with school officials at a predominantly black church said racial slurs appeared last week on MySpace in postings about whether the Confederate flag should be displayed at Fort Hill. Sophomore Shawnta Harris brought MySpace printouts to the meeting, including a March 7 posting stating, "the south will rise again."

Black sophomore Crystalee Campbell said a student used the phrase "white sheets" — an apparent reference to the Ku Klux Klan — after she was accused of cutting into the lunch line last week at Fort Hill. Campbell said she responded with profanity and got two days of in-school suspension. The perpetrator was suspended for three days, she said.

Two other students were then suspended for making racial slurs, prompting others to wear Confederate flags in protest, Campbell said.

Lewis said only that "a couple" of students were suspended for racial slurs. He refused to provide details about the suspensions, citing confidentiality rules.