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High court turns away students' challenge of Confederate-flag ban

By The Associated Press
10.08.09

MARYVILLE, Tenn. — Some fans of the Confederate flag have lost their legal battle over a ban on wearing the Rebel emblem at an eastern Tennessee high school.

On Oct. 5, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a petition from a group of now-former students at William Blount High School in Maryville who challenged the dress code four years ago. The students were threatened with suspension if they wore Confederate flag T-shirts.

"They should have listened to it, at least heard (our) side of the story," one of the students, Craig White, told WVLT-TV.

"We were just being called out in what we were wearing, when not one of us were involved in what was going on," said his sister, Nicole White. "So it was just unfair to us."

But school officials felt the ban was necessary after several race-related incidents, including fights that led to a school lockdown and graffiti.

Schools Director Rob Britt said he is happy the issue is resolved.

"We won at the circuit and district levels, and for the Supreme Court not hearing it, really validates and supports our policy and position," he said.

Arguments continue over the flag ban, but Britt said tensions have calmed since 2005.

Britt says the end of the lawsuit reaffirms the dress-code policy, and that he hopes it will prevent others from trying to wear the Confederate flag in schools.

But similar cases are pending elsewhere. The Confederate flag has been banned as an inflammatory symbol of racism, while flag supporters believe they have a free-speech right to express pride in their Southern heritage.

In August, a federal judge in Knoxville upheld a similar ban on Confederate-themed clothing in the nearby Anderson County school system. The case has been appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in part, based on testimony that racial tensions were low at the plaintiff's school.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in South Carolina ruled last month in favor of a Confederate flag clothing ban in the Latta school system. Confederate-flag supporters say they will appeal to the 4th Circuit.


Previous
6th Circuit supports Tenn. school's Confederate flag ban
Panel points to race-related incidents in ruling that school officials could bar symbol because they could 'reasonably forecast' that it would cause disruption. 08.21.08

Related

Court tosses challenge to Tenn. school's ban on Confederate flag

Tommy Defoe's case was first tried a year ago, ending with a hung jury; retrial was expected in a few weeks. 08.13.09

Federal judge sides with S.C. district in Confederate-flag case

Attorney for former student challenging ban says dispute 'would be a good case to take to the Supreme Court.' 09.17.09

Students lose Confederate-flag purse case in 5th Circuit
By David L. Hudson Jr. Appeals court panel says school officials in Texas reasonably forecast that substantial disruption could ensue from flag displays by two girls. 10.16.09

Confederate flags in public schools: Teach the controversy
By Charles C. Haynes Though rebel symbol can legally be barred from school in certain circumstances, it's better to engage the issues behind the dispute. 06.06.04

Clothing, dress codes & uniforms

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