District’s Ban on Confederate Symbols Upheld

By Mark Walsh — February 02, 2009 1 min read
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A Missouri school district did not violate the First Amendment when it prohibited students from displaying Confederate flags, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, ruled unanimously in favor of the Farmington school district on Jan. 30.

“The record in this case contains evidence of likely racially motivated violence, racial tension, and other altercations directly related to adverse race relations in the community and the school,” the court said in B.W.A. v. Farmington R-7 School District. “Because the school could reasonably forecast a substantial disruption, the administration did not violate the First Amendment by banning the flag.”

The district barred Confederate symbols after incidents that included white students surrounding a black student in a confrontation at Farmington High School, and a skirmish at a basketball game in which two Farmington High players allegedly used racial slurs against black players on the opposing team.

The policy was challenged by students who were disciplined for wearing hats and shirts with Confederate flags or other symbols. Amid controversy over the policy, one student was disciplined for wearing a T-shirt that said, “The South was right, Our school is wrong.”

The 8th Circuit court’s ruling is consistent with other federal appeals courts to have addressed the issue. The courts have generally ruled that where there have been racial disruptions in school, Confederate symbols may be prohibited. Last year, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, issued such a ruling, which the full 6th Circuit declined to rehear last month over the dissent of one member. I blogged about the panel’s ruling here, and the full court’s action here.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.