First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
 
print this   Print

Tenn. students challenge school's Confederate-flag ban

By The Associated Press
03.05.06

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Three students and their parents sued the Blount County school system on March 2, claiming a ban on the Confederate battle flag at William Blount High School violates their free speech.

“They are basically saying students can’t express themselves by wearing anything with a Confederate flag on it,” said lawyer Kirk Lyons of the Southern Legal Resource Center.

“Out of all the T-shirts that are worn to school every day, a student cannot express pride in his Southern heritage at William Blount High School,” he said.

The Black Mountain, N.C.-based group and the Tennessee Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans are supporting the lawsuit filed in federal court against school Principal Steve Lafon, Schools Director Alvin Hord and the Blount County School Board.

“Our policy is that any type of clothing which has graphics, words or pictures that are distracting to the learning process of the school ... are not supposed to be worn,” schools spokeswoman Alisa Teffeteller said.

The policy has been on the books for several years, but it had not been enforced until last April when the sheriff’s office had to lock down the school amid rising tensions and threats to black students.

The students bringing the lawsuit, Derek Barr, Chris Nicole White and Roger Craig White, said they were threatened with suspension if they refused to cover or turn inside out shirts bearing the Confederate emblem. They complied.

Meanwhile, their lawsuit claims other students have worn clothing depicting “foreign national flags, Malcolm X symbols and political slogans” without repercussions.

The students are seeking a preliminary injunction to lift the ban.

“If we get something filed against us, we will have to deal with it,” Teffeteller said.

The issue is unrelated to problems at city-run Maryville High School, also in Blount County, which has banned the Confederate flag from athletic events in response to concerns over the school’s nickname, the “Red Rebels.”

William Blount High’s nickname is the “Governors,” after Tennessee’s territorial Gov. William Blount.


Update
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

Tennessee school board bans Confederate flag from sports events

Lone dissenting Maryville board member says policy — which bars all flags, signs, noisemakers, other objects from 'Red Rebels' home games — can't be enforced. 08.18.05

Mo. teen wants to show his 'Rebel Pride' at school

14-year-old hires First Amendment attorney, saying he won't return to school unless he can wear Confederate battle flag. 10.20.06

Tenn. Confederate-flag controversy set for Aug. trial
By David L. Hudson Jr. Former student contends he was improperly suspended for wearing T-shirt, belt buckle bearing the controversial symbol. 07.11.08

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

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.



Last system update: Monday, February 8, 2010 | 19:07:27
 SEARCH  MORE
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
How to contribute
Video/RSS/podcasts
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment
reports

Religious liberty in public schools
First Reports
Supreme Court
Columnists
Experts
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Glossary
Freedom Sings™
Events
First Amendment
Schools

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment
Library

Lesson plans
freedomforum.org
Newseum
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links