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.
And given the large number of East Tennesseans who volunteered for the Union army, the people did more than just wait for liberation.
I think the young man's best point is that other possibly controversial clothing is allowed. To be fair across the board, I think all messages on school clothing should be prohibited, not just single out the reb flag.
Once you introduce taxpayer funding into the equation, you open up all sorts of problems. Mandatory dress codes are a great example. (We have them here too, but they’re voluntary. They can’t legally sustain a mandatory code.)
It’s just better for the government to stay out of education, and many other areas of our life. That’s why we home school our kids. We’ve also paid for private school in the past.
That's true, but it seems grotesque to me that a region that was not only non-Confederate, but was so bitterly anti-Confederate that it was long a Republican safe region, should be so soon so ignorant of the past. I guess that's just more evidence of the work of the public schools.
It was a choice between state or federal government being the primary authority. Your opinion of the Confederacy notwithstanding, the war was about economics and power, and who was going to hold more of it.
In my opinion (since we’re throwing opinions around), the war was primarily over the Tenth Amendment, which DC found inconvenient.
I absolutely agree with homeschooling. But there have been dress codes for decades and I agree with them. There are some things that kids should just not wear to school. Racial or obscene t-shirts are an example.
Obviously the people of Anderson County have seen the error of their ancestor’s ways. In reality, the Confederate flag today to many Southern whites represents Southern culture and heritage and freedom from a strong federal government. It means less and less about the Confederate cause in the War for Southern Independence.
Were you alive back then or do you insist on living in the past? Something that happened over a hundred and forty years ago does not make a good case for social constructs.
Do you feel the need to make reparations for slavery, too?
Wear a Che T-shirt and see if a similar ban is made.
How about a Lenin/Soviet Flag Shirt?
Dress codes are fine as long as they're fair and equally enforced. We know that in the real PC world that won't be likely, though.
I guess that's just more evidence of the work of the public schools.
Most public schools teach kids that the Confederates were the bad guys, if not pure evil. They plant reparations ideas in the little kiddies heads from their elementary years with constant dwelling on slaveryslaveryslaveryslavery....More kids probably know who Harriet Tubman was than Madison, Jefferson, FDR, or Eisenhower.
If the public schools were totally succeeding on this issue, no kid in America would want anything to do with a Rebel Flag.
I think you're on to something here. The "southern heritage" that is so often relevant is that of 1950s and the battle against school integration and not the 1860s. It's no accident that the reb flag appeared on Georgia's state flag in the 1950s.
But the Confederate states have not always been against a strong federal government. They were all for federal action in the 1840s to help expand the slave empire into new territories. The southern people were not champions of small government when they overwhelmingly supported FDR, nor did their small government principles lead them to reject federal handouts such as TVA.
Yep. Can't have that free-speaking going on in education.
The problem with deciding it is okay to limit someone's liberty to do or say what they want is that short of banning everything (e.g. uniforms and nothing else), you end up deciding who you will allow to speak and who you won't. Government becomes the controller of all speach. The first amendment doesn't end with "...as long as nobody is offended."
Frankly, how Anderson County voted on secession is irrelevant to this whole discussion, and a bit of local trivia I would expect no one in HS to know.
Which more than anything else shows the abysmal level of knowledge in this country regarding the War of Southern Rebellion.
I can’t say that flag gives me a positive feeling either.
“Free Speech” is currently a one-way ratchet to the left.
I’m sure it would be perfectly OK, or at least a “free speech” issue protected by the threat of lawsuit from the ACLU,
if someone wore a pro-abortion or anti-Christian message on their shirt,
like the footed fish with “Darwin” on it eating the Christian fish symbol.
That little piece of hatefilled garbage puts the LIE to the claim that teaching evolution isn’t intended to destroy religion.
I’m betting that your average ACLU card carrying member
would be perfectly fine with a Che, Stalin, Marx, or Mao T-shirt in school,
but would pitch a hissy over a Christian message or a “Commies aren’t cool” shirt.
How about a Lenin/Soviet Flag Shirt?
That is exactly my point. It is more likely that a school would allow that kind of crap while at the same time banning the Confederate flag.
Perhaps public schools should just mandate uniforms and be done with it.
It's people who claim the heritage of the Confederacy that most often are focused on the past. But if somebody claims to focused on the past it helps to be as knowledgeable of the past as possible. And I think a broad claim about "southern heritage" in a region that generally hated the Confederacy should be addressed.
Do you feel the need to make reparations for slavery, too?
The proper time for reparations ended over a century ago. The USA missed the boat on that one. Guilt and victimhood and privilege is not inherited in this country. It's not insignificant that titles of nobility are prohibited in the Constitution.
Not all oppression is federal. There was no pay up or go to Tuscaloosa extortion racket under the federal government in the 1860s. That money making machine was a "blessing" of Confederate local government. Our federal system is based on a divided sovereignty with the Constitution being the supreme law. Our system is not based on total elimination of the proper place of Washington DC so that local government can run amok.
In my opinion (since were throwing opinions around), the war was primarily over the Tenth Amendment, which DC found inconvenient.
I think Washington's problem was not with the 10th Amendment, but with the Confederates' interpretation of the 10th Amendment.
While you are obviously entitled to opine as you see fit, the Vice President of the Confederate States of America would tend to put a bit different spin on it than do you. And since we absolutely recognize that when Dick Cheney speaks, he speaks for the administration, so too did Alexander Stephens.
A few gems from the speech: (emphasis mine)
The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutionAfrican slavery as it exists amongst usthe proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.
Even when Stephens attempted to clarify his remarks he did not back away from that statement:
Slavery was without doubt the occasion of secession
Given the sad state of public education, local history is just one subject that HS kids are generally ignorant about. But that doesn't mean a knowledge of history is not important. History is more than trivia and objective historical facts are more valuable than a feel good "heritage" based on misconceptions.
Rebel Flags are a sign of the south. I’m a northern girl but love everything about the south and dream of spending my retirement years there. I was amazed at the difficult time I had finding a decent size flag when I was recently visiting. I dont see it as racist and would fly it with pride.
Now, if someone wore a Rebel Flag to represent the North, that would be a sign of historical ignorance. But I don't see it as being a sign of historical stupidity if a kid wears the flag to represent the South, just because he happens to do it in a county in the South where most people didn't want to secede. Some people there did want to secede, and lots of people have moved around. Not to mention that even the direct descendants of Unionists might feel some sympathy for the Confederacy after seeing the damage the federal government has done to our culture over the past few decades.
Heck, we're on the verge of having same-sex “marriage” foisted on us by the courts, using the Union-imposed 14th Amendment and the same “sociological” reasoning used in the Brown decision. It might be reasonable for a lot of people nationwide to start thinking more positively about the Rebel Flag.
We should be teaching our kids that it is NOT words, images, and the like, that should be feared (and then banned by government decree), but rather, ACTIONS taken against us by anyone - including our government (local, state, or federal).
We now live in a society where people are too sensitive to mere WORDS, and are looking for any reason to sue for some PERCEIVED injustice.
What's the REAL harm in wearing a shirt, or belt buckle with a Confederate battle flag image on it?
There is NO actual harm.
The fact is, that image means different things to different people.
Is what a black person thinks about it more important than what a white person thinks about it?
You'd think that the Civil War (in the South, many of us call it "The War of Northern Aggression") was fought ONLY about slavery, and, unfortunately, that's what our kids government school books reflect.
Other things have been demonized as being hateful and insensitive by an all too sensitive, mainly liberal, black population (only approx. 14 percent of our population - you'd think they were the majority), and magnified and repeated by a sympathetic (I would say PATHETIC) left-wing mainstream media.
Why, you'd think that black people were the only ones EVER hanged using a rope with a hangman's noose. Never mind all of the white (and members of other races) horse thieves,criminals, etc. which have been hanged throughout our history.
It IS time for a PUSH BACK against all of the mindless, nonsensical PC that has enveloped our country.
I hope this boy, his family, and his lawyer/s are successful in their push-back.
Respect for authority is one thing, but when the government, be it local, state, or federal, tries to trample on my 1st Amendment, 2nd Amendment, or any other rights - as enumerated in the Bill of Rights - stand the f*** by.
“Which means he was told 40 times his attire violated the dress code. I’d say this kid definitely lacks respect for authority.”
So in your world the young man should have just submitted to the pressure of the school’s authority to limit his free speech.
Do you value your own freedoms?
At what point would you take action to protect your own rights and those of others, and what would that action be?
This young man went to the courts to secure his (and our) freedoms, and seems to have a fair chance of winning.
PS - I doubt you will answer the second question above directly, because I doubt you have really thought this through.