CCPS Superintendent Stephen Guthrie addresses Confederate flags in schools
As Carroll County Public Schools considers banning the Confederate battle flag, it is essential to evaluate the full ramifications of such an intrusive policy (“Carroll County Public Schools discusses possibility of banning Confederate flag items in schools,” Jan. 10). In high school, one of my favorite subjects was American history. Following a family trip to Gettysburg, I was the recipient of sharp reprimand from school officials after wearing a Confederate battle flag t-shirt. After voicing my concern to the administration, they decided that Confederate battle flag t-shirts did not, in fact, violate dress code guidelines.
Long-standing case law establishes that such a ban would not be legal. Since the Supreme Court ruled students don't surrender their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate in Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), courts at all levels have upheld a student's free speech rights in hundreds of recent cases. As the flag includes the St. Andrews Cross, a ban could also constitute religious discrimination violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Any erosion of free speech will undoubtedly lead to selective enforcement along political or religious biases.
In high school, I also had the opportunity to partake in a history elective on the Civil War. I find it troubling that under the proposed policy, educational resources that include Confederate battle flag imagery would be removed. As the cliche goes, those who don't learn history (even the ugly parts) are doomed to repeat it. This begs the question: Does the school system truly believe history buffs to be racists? Do they consider fans of Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama, Charlie Daniels, or Hank Williams Jr. to be bigoted? Are students who enjoy NASCAR, Ole Miss football or The Dukes of Hazzard hateful?
By the school board perpetuating these negative (and untrue) stereotypes about southern culture, they are contributing to a hostile classroom environment that will prove unconducive to learning. By failing to teach our students diversity and tolerance, many will use the proposed policy as license to stigmatize or bully students based on their hobbies, interests, or just by the way they talk. Left defenseless with zero tolerance, the school system will be liable for any violence that occurs due to such narrow-minded tactics.
If the school board is successful in adopting this new policy, the Confederate battle flag will not be the only flag banned. In the name of removing symbols of hate, the American flag too will be banned, as we have already witnessed at some schools in other states.