A federal appeals court today upheld a prohibition on displaying the Confederate flag in a Tennessee high school that had experienced racial tensions.
“The facts in this case ... indicate that school officials could reasonably forecast that permitting students to wear clothing depicting the Confederate flag would cause disruptions to the school environment,’' said the unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati.
The decision in Barr v. LaFon upholds summary judgment in favor of the Blount County, Tenn., school district and administrators in a challenge to the prohibition by students “who would like to express their Southern heritage by wearing clothing depicting the Confederate flag at school.”
The appeals court pointed to facts in the record about several racial incidents at William Blount High School, including an alleged physical altercation between black and white students at a basketball game in 2005, and several incidents of racist graffiti found in a boys’ restroom, including one depicting a noose.
Lawyers for the students who challenged the district argued there was no evidence that Confederate flag symbols had caused disruptions at the school.
But the court said the racist graffiti “exemplifies how school officials reasonably concluded that the connection between the symbolism of the Confederate flag and racial tensions at the school meant that the Confederate flag would likely have a disruptive effect on the school.”
This case on Confederate flags in the schools is not the same as one from another Tennessee school district that ended up in a mistrial last week because a federal district court jury could not reach a verdict. I briefly blogged on that case here and here.
UPDATE: The Associated Press reports on the decision here.
A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.