Teens Suspended for Wearing Confederate Flags to Protest LGBT History Month
A pair of 16-year-old students in Maple Valley, Washington got some time off for bad behavior in the form of a suspension from school last week for wearing Confederate flags to school in an apparent statement against LGBT Pride Month; KIRO TV reports.
The suspended teens claim their decision to wear the "stars and bars" to school was a response to a classmate who wore a rainbow flag to school in honor of LGBT History Month. The boys wore the flags in common areas around several students who got upset. A woman picking up her nephew at school saw the flags as a symbol of slavery and racism and commented, "I can see where we wouldn’t OK that -- there’s too many ethnic backgrounds that that could offend,"
"If he can wear his flag in support of what he believes, we figured we could do that as well," said one of the suspended students, who only gave the name "Grady" in an interview with KOMO News further stating "We put ours around our necks and kind of walked around with them, [..] It’s just a way of showing our southern pride, nothing racist at all."
Tahoma School District spokesman, Kevin Patterson said that school officials had warned the boys not to wear their Confederate flags, yet "they chose to bring them anyway, labeling the teens’ behavior "disruptive" and unfair to the other students. "They have a right to be there and not have their classes interrupted by this kind of event," Patterson said.
As KIRO TV reported, while students say they see the flags in cars and trucks and flown at football games, some do think this was different. "You don’t expect kids to show up with a Confederate flag on their back," Coleman Wooten, a student in 12th grade.
And while "Grady" claims to understand how people might be offended by his Civil War inspired apparel, he considers it free speech.
The Tahoma School district is not alone in their response to their students’ chosen form of free speech. In 2011, the Huffington Post reported that a 14-year-old New Jersey was suspended for wearing a Confederate flag sweatshirt to class. In 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union became involved in the case of an Oklahoma student suspended from school for flying the rebel flag from the back of his pickup truck.
Both students will return to class this week.