After initially allowing a student in Confederate flag-adorned clothing to keep wearing it, officials in the Plum Borough School District (Pennsylvania) had to backtrack when other students started showing up at school in similar attire.
As reported by KDKA-2, Robert Williams (who’s black) said his daughter had complained about the (original) Plum High School student’s attire, whereupon the school told the student to take off the clothing with the flag.
However, administrators quickly backtracked, citing the student’s First Amendment rights — specifically the US Supreme Court ruling in Tinker.
But the Supreme Court, as well as lower courts, have routinely allowed schools to limit student expression if it is deemed “disruptive” to the educational environment. Mr. Williams argued just that — that the student’s Confederate flag attire was “disruptive and upsetting to [his] child.”
The school’s/district’s eventual reversal was a fairly easy call when other students showed up similarly dressed.
A statement, signed by Superintendent Timothy Glasspool, reads in part: “Today three students arrived at Plum High School wearing Confederate Flag clothing and/or accouterments. This attire is beginning to cause a disruption to the normal school routine.”
Glasspool reported that the District has received in excess of 50 negative reactions. He stated the students were asked to remove the offensive symbol from their attire. Two students apparently refused and were sent home.
“The practice of ethnic, religious, racial or gender charged symbols that profess hatred, bigotry, or oppression has no place in any learning institution and will not be tolerated in Plum schools,” he wrote.
Student Noah Leech said he planned on challenging the school’s ban:
“A lot of these students think it stands for slavery and racism. And the southern flag, I mean it did fall into that. But it really did stand for the southern states,” he said. “I’m going to continue to wear my hoodie everyday until I get told otherwise. Until they change the policy. I continue to wear my hoodie and support what I support.”
Taking court decisions into account, it is highly unlikely Leech will prevail.