Skip to comments.School officials: Rebel flag suit more than a dress code issue; funded ‘by outside sources’
Posted on 08/15/2008 4:24:22 AM PDT by Colonel Kangaroo
CLINTON, Tenn. Likening the case to the racial discord of the mid- to late 1950s in Anderson County, county school officials on Thursday night said this week's U.S. federal court hearing over a student's right to wear the Confederate flag symbol is being funded "by outside sources."
"Regardless of what you read there's a lot more to it than our enforcement of our dress code," John Burrell, Anderson County Board of Education chairman, said during the county school board's regular monthly meeting.
At the meeting's start, Anderson County school board members spent approximately 20 minutes in an executive session teleconference with their attorney, Arthur S. Knight III of Knoxville. An executive session allows for the elected officials to go behind closed doors and out of the public eye to confer with their attorney.
Knight reportedly was updating the board members on the status of a federal case now under way against the Anderson County school system. The hearing is the result of a free speech lawsuit filed in 2006 by Tom DeFoe, who was then an Anderson County High School student. According to The Associated Press, 18-year-old DeFoe, earned a certificate of completion from the county vocational school last fall.
DeFoe alleges school officials violated his right to free speech, due process and equal protection, when they suspended him more than 40 times for wearing T-shirts and a belt buckle with the Rebel flag emblem.
DeFoe's lawsuit is challenging the county school system's quarter-century old ban on the display of the Confederate flag, as well as Malcolm X or gang-affiliation attire.
This case, Director of Schools V.L. Stonecipher said Thursday night, has made the county's school administrators think about the system's policies.
"There're no winners or losers in this case," Stonecipher explained to board members. "It just shows the importance of board policy and consistency in policy.
"I think our Code of Student Conduct is second to none," the schools' director said.
"You don't realize how things can be scrutinized and what can happen," he added.
"It's being funded by outside sources," Burrell said of the lawsuit.
According to a November 2006 story published in The Oak Ridger, DeFoe's lawsuit was filed by an attorney employed by the Black Mountain, N.C.-based Southern Legal Resource Center Inc.
"In 1956, an outsider, John Kasper, came in and created a problem," Stonecipher said, referring to the racial unrest in Clinton that resulted in the 1958 bombing of Clinton High School. "Then, in 2006, it's an outsider coming in looking for a landmark case."
Kasper was among those who opposed the court-ordered desegregation of Clinton High School in August 1956.
The Associated Press reported Thursday night that a three-man, five-woman jury in Knoxville deliberated a second day Thursday but was unable to return a verdict and will have to return Friday.
At one point, the jury asked U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan for help defining some words key to the case. The judge said they consider his instructions "as a whole" and not word by word.
After more than 10 hours of deliberation, they sent a message to the judge late Thursday. "We cannot reach an unanimous decision. What do we do?"
In addition to asking the jury to resume work Friday, the judge asked the lawyers and their clients to consider the possibility of resolving the case without a jury verdict or accepting a majority verdict instead of an unanimous one.
"I don't see how it is taking so long to figure out that I am right," DeFoe said of the jury, The Associated Press reported. "It is the Confederate battle flag. It is the South's flag. And students should be able to wear it."
DeFoe's lawyers are pointing to related court rulings to argue that past racial violence at Anderson County High School, which DeFoe attended, "does not necessarily prove that the symbolic expression (of the Confederate flag) will cause substantial disruption in the future."
There was no evidence DeFoe's apparel directly led to racial incidents at Anderson County High, where one out of 1,160 students is black, or at the all-white vocational school.
But there was concern that it could raise tensions there and at another county school -- the more racially mixed Clinton High, the first school desegregated by court order in the old South in 1956.
His lawsuit is the latest in a string of cases across the South since the 1990s challenging dress codes that banned Confederate flag apparel. Most have been dismissed by judges or settled out of court.
"Getting to where we have gotten with this case is in and of itself just an incredible victory," said Van Irion, DeFoe's attorney.
"I think when you stand up like Mr. Irion did (in closing arguments) and say, 'The whole world is watching you,' I think the jury really (understood)," said Knight, the school board's attorney. "I sympathize with their plight."
The 2006 lawsuit was filed against Stonecipher, Burrell, the School Board, Anderson County High Principal Greg Deal, Merl Krull and Sid Spiva, both vocational school officials. Spiva has since retired.
Leean Tupper can be contacted at (865) 220-5501. Donna Smith of The Oak Ridger and Duncan Mansfield of The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Because they are afraid to stand up the the fascism of liberalism. Only liberals seek to stifle freedom of speech. Now, if he were to wear a t-shirt that said, "I support a woman's right to choose!" he would lauded as a hero.
Which means he was told 40 times his attire violated the dress code. I'd say this kid definitely lacks respect for authority.
Confederate “invader”? You do realize that the Union invaded the seceding states? Gettysburg was the sole exception, IIRC.
I live in Georgia and have high school aged kids. A while back Dixie Outfitters was the big rage. They had Rebel Flags on their clothing and I don’t recall anyone making a stink about it.
Just this weekend a bunch of the boys were at my house, some of them were black. Yet they did not seem to mind one bit to ride around in two trucks that had Rebel Flags displayed on them. One of the trucks had the flag on a pole in the back.
I’m not being insensative to the meaning of the flag but with the array of kids that hang out at my house, I never see all these silly racial issues come up. They nickname eachother with regard to race and make comments to eachother and yet they’ve all been friends since grade school.
We had government schools telling us that we couldn’t bring Bibles to school in the 80s. We resisted and won.
Did we lack ‘respect for authority’?
Only if you equate the Bible with clothing, which I don’t.
So liberty has nothing to do with it?
This is a government school we’re talking about. This kid’s family pays taxes which go to the school system. Equal protection cuts both ways. If it were a private school, this would be settled very quickly and decisively.
By the way, I don’t support the idea of public education at all. This is a perfect example of why.
The people of Anderson County did not want the Confederacy in the first place. It was the Union army that was seen as the liberators there.
I’ve seen Confederate flags displayed by individuals in several non-Confederate states, including not only border states which sided with the Union, but even in northern New England, the hotbed of anti-slavery feeling, where statues of Union soldiers stand in many public places.
There’s a teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio, that has lost his job primarily for presenting creationism AND evolution in his biology class. This same teacher has had a Bible on top of his desk for the entire twenty years he has taught there, but the drive-bys are saying that the Bible had no business on his desk. Don’t think that because we won a battle in the ‘80’s that this was is over.
The real question here is whether or not the ban on clothing that I emphasized above is being enforced as rigorously as the ban on Confederate flag adorned clothing is. If this is true, then it would be hard for me to see a problem with the ban, as schools have an obligation to maintain order and discipline in the classroom.
Of course, having issues with the school dress code only helps to make the case for being allowed to redirect one's school tax payments towards private schooling that would allow for the clothing in question instead, i.e., more of a free market in education.
You make some great observations. The issue is "the meaning" of the flag. I grew up in upstate New York. In Yankee-land numerous kids also wore and displayed the confederate battle flag... But what meaning did it have? It certainly didn't have anything to do with racism. It also didn't have anything to do with Southern heritage... in upstate NY. What "the meaning" of the flag meant to these upstate NY teenagers was BEING A REBEL. All teenagers rebel and the meaning of the flag for these kids was rebellion. The "Don't Tread on Me" flag as well as the Revolutionary War flag with it's circular 13 stars was also popular. The more the Confederate flag is demonized as having only one meaning, the more it will become the symbol of many meanings.
Challenging ‘authority’ is a patriotic American quality.
Oh, I don’t think that at all. Our battle was local- Hillsborough County FL.
The control freaks don’t bring up that issue any more. They got their heads handed to them.
I attended public school in the 50’s and 60’s. We had a dress code. I agree with dress codes. This has nothing to do with liberty. Schools where I live ask the kids not to wear band t-shirts. Should they sue? No.
Which is historical proof that when people want the Federal government to come to the rescue, the control freaks are happy to oblige.
They never explain the fine print though. That comes later.
Really. As in “Don’t trust anyone over 30”? 60’s radicals challenged authority. Not all challenges are good or right.
“”It’s being funded by outside sources,” Burrell said of the lawsuit.”
And that is different from the multitude of Liberal/Left/Commie suits funded by outside sources in what way?
Note the poor educrat thinks the socialism imposed by the NEA and the local teachers union is perfectly acceptable.
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