Confederate Flags in High School? Free Speech or Hate Speech
Earlier this week a confederate flag was confiscated from a student at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington and now some are saying it was a violation of the students rights.
This past Monday was 'America Day' at the south county high school, just one in a week of themed days leading up to homecoming. One student showed up to school wearing a Confederate Flag, but according to an email to parents from Principal Douglas Wine, was persuaded by other students to remove the flag. However, later in that same school day, another student wore it before it was eventually confiscated by administration.
Now, The Berkshire Eagle is reporting that a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union claims school authorities might have violated the students First Amendment right to free speech by confiscated the flag. Bill Newman, who is director of the ACLU's Western Mass legal team said students do not lose their constitutional rights at the door of the school. A response from the school was the the flag was not confiscated based on hate speech, but because it was disruptive to other students, which is a violation of school policy.
To me this brings up so many questions, of course students shouldn't lose their constitutional rights at the door. In fact, at a high school level, it's a great time for students to explore their rights as they learn about them in school. However, the students are there to learn, and once on school campus, it is imperative for their education and safety that they adhere to the policies in place. When exercising those rights violates school rules, things can get messy.
Another question that comes out of this, is the confederate flag hate speech? Without a doubt, living in the north, our answer would be much different than someone from the south. We see confederate flags on vehicles, t-shirts, even album covers. Adults can make the decision to display that if they so choose, and while some people frown upon them, its people's right to do so. So does student having one constituent hate speech?
If anything, one would hope that this incident facilitates a discussion between, teachers, students, and even parents, about not only about our rights but also about respecting others. It is more clear in American culture now more than ever, that just because something that is technically legal, doesn't mean it's right.