For South Carolina students, the confederate flag may go on a list of What Not to Wear.
“Clothing and attire could just be the start of it,” says Principal Bryan Skipper of South Aiken High School. “There could be a fight or a major disruption. There are 500 kids out there at one time and you have an argument or a disturbance, then it spills up and down teh hallways, in and out of the classrooms.”
This started when a Latta High School student wore a confederate flag t-shirt and was told to change. She took her case to a federal court; this week the US Court of Appeals ruled that schools can tell students to change. For some people that may get the blood boiling.
“If they feel strong feelings, or get their blood boiling, that justifies the decision the federal courts made,” explains First Amendment attorney David Hudson.
This isn't about convictions, but about clothing: Could the clothing in question disrupt the school? The policies in Aiken and Edgefield Counties are upheld by the ruling: They state that administrators can ban clothing at their discretion.
Skipper says principals need the power to keep making that call.
“You have an argument that can cause disturbance, then it spills over and up and down the hallways and into the classroms,” Skipper says.
But where do you draw the line on a disruption: If it is the week of Clemson-Carolina and a student wears one of those shirts, could that not cause a disruption?
“If you had a school where every South Carolina-Clemson game week you had fist fights and food fights, the school officials would be justified in saying no more wearing of those shirts,” Hudson says.
That's why the federal court ruled that administrators know best when it comes to their schools.
“We know the climate and culture in our school,” Skipper says.
“Maybe in Alaska [the confederate flag] isn't disruptive, but in most Southern schools it has the potential to be disruptive,” Hudson says.
So when it comes to the confederate flag school administrators have the right to say, it doesn't fly.