Confederate flag

Confederate Flag Banned By Indiana School Principal, Are Students’ Rights To Free Speech Being Violated?

An Indiana high school principal has banned students from wearing anything that depicts the Confederate flag, saying that tensions at the school are running high and the insignia is making some students feel unsafe, WXIN (Indianapolis) is reporting.

Bloomington North High School Principal Jeffry M. Henderson sent an email to parents, faculty, and staff last week saying the so-called “Stars and Bars” has no place at the school. The issue came up because at least two students showed up to class last week wearing the flags draped across their shoulders and flowing behind them, like capes.

“Throughout the day, this issue has evolved into one that has created a substantial disruption to the educational environment. As a result, students may no longer wear or display images of the Confederate flag on their clothing or any other personal item while at school or a school-sponsored event or function due to the disruption it has created.”

Depending on whom you ask, the Confederate flag is either a symbol of Southern pride and heritage, devoid of any racist meaning; or a symbol of hate, prejudice, and slavery.

Writing for the New York Times in December of 2015, Ben Jones, the chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, opined that anyone who would claim the Confederate flag represents hate and slavery is missing the point.

“To those 70 million of us whose ancestors fought for the South, it is a symbol of family members who fought for what they thought was right in their time, and whose valor became legendary in military history. This is not nostalgia. It is our legacy. The current attacks on that legacy, 150 years after the event, are to us an insult that mends no fences nor builds any bridges.”

However, most civil-rights groups and hate-watching groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center included, regard the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate that must be eradicated.

“But the argument that the Confederate flag and other displays represent ‘heritage, not hate’ ignores the near-universal heritage of African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved by the millions in the South. It trivializes their pain, their history and their concerns about racism — whether it’s the racism of the past or that of today.”

So how did the Confederate flag controversy make its way to a high school in Bloomington, Indiana of all places? As it turns out, some associated with the school believe the students may have worn the flags in response to an LGBTQ event at the school last week. Some students were “concerned” about a gay pride being flown in the school’s library and in one classroom.

Regardless of the reasons behind the tensions, Henderson said that the presence of the Confederate flag has made some students feel “unsafe,” and so he doesn’t want it at his school.

So, does banning students from wearing the Confederate flag to school violate their First Amendment rights to free speech? That question would be up for a court to decide, in the event that one of the students affected by such a ban — in Bloomington or elsewhere — filed a lawsuit.

In fact, outside of Indiana kids have fought back against schools banning the Confederate flag at their schools, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the courts have had their backs. The issue came up in Ohio in 2015, and the ACLU of Ohio issued a statement supporting the rights of the students to display the Confederate flag in their schools.

“The First Amendment protects the right to express any viewpoint, no matter how unpopular, and therein lies its strength. It is not up to the government—be it the local school district or Congress—to decide for us which speech is acceptable.”

Do you believe schools should ban students from wearing the Confederate flag at school?

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