January 29th, 2019 – Students at an Arkansas high school faced backlash after wearing Confederate flag shirts to school last week. A few Fayetteville high schoolers chose the flag-wear as part of the “History Not Hate” movement unfolding on a hashtag near you.
According to local news station KARK, the students dug in further by also painting confederate flags on their skin. The local school district has rules in place concerning dress code that mirror similar educational guidelines across the country.
“Attire that disrupts the educational process or otherwise interferes with the rights or opportunities of others to learn or teach is considered improper and unacceptable,” the rule reads.
School administrators gave students the option to take off the Confederate flag shirts or go home. All but one student chose to remove the shirt, resulting in an out-of-school suspension.
“We’re not trying to trample on their First Amendment right. We’re just trying to have a safe and orderly school environment,” Fayetteville High School Principal Jay Dostal told KARK. The Confederate flag is a symbol and it has a long history, 150 years, tied to being the ideas of racism, hatred and bigotry, and because of that it’s not allowed in our school setting.”
Speaking to KARK cameras, one student brought up a popular but always debated point: wearing Confederate clothing is for Southern pride, not hate.
“None of us are racist. None of us are doing it for hate. It’s southern pride, and we’re not going to take it off for anyone. It’s our flag. It’s Arkansas. This is the south,” he said.
Another student echoed similar thoughts saying it’s not about hate and that he has friends of different races.
“To us, it’s not hate. Everyone is saying it’s hate. It’s our history. We live in a southern state, and if we were doing it for hate we wouldn’t be wearing it,” freshman Jagger Starnes said. “I’m honestly not racist. I have friends that are black. I have friends that are Mexican, you know, I’m not racist by any means.”
“To your argument that the Confederate flag didn’t start out as racist, I disagree. Here is a direct quote from the Confederate Constitution—other than this one bit it is exactly the same as that of the United States. ‘No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.’ So it says no matter what we will keep our slaves.”
Arguments over controversial, politically-motivated clothing at schools have seen an uptick over the past few years. Last May, a Montana high school student was suspended after repeatedly wearing a Confederate flag sweatshirt despite requests to stop.
In July of 2018, a high school student in Oregon actually won a lawsuit (as well as $25,000 and an apology) after being suspended months before for wearing a “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co.” t-shirt in class.
Do you think the Arkansas students should have been allowed to wear the Confederate flag shirts or was the suspension appropriate?