by The Associated Press
published May 22, 2006

LATTA, S.C. – A 15-year-old high school sophomore kicked off the last week of school here with a protest march about her school’s ban on wearing Confederate flag clothing.

Candice Hardwick says she wants to wear the emblem to pay tribute to ancestors who fought on the Confederate side of the Civil War.

She walked a few blocks to Latta High School this morning with H.K. Edgerton, a black former NAACP leader from North Carolina who now is board chairman of the Southern Legal Resource Center.

Edgerton, formerly head of the Asheville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is known for dressing up in Confederate gear and carrying the banner to emphasize what he describes as the role blacks played in voluntarily supporting the South in the Civil War.

"I love her courage," Edgerton said before they started the five-block march to the high school. "She’s made a stand for her Southland."

In March, Edgerton’s North Carolina-based group filed a federal lawsuit to force Latta High School to let the girl wear the Confederate emblem.

Latta High School officials have said the symbol is disruptive in school and that school policies let them bar some of the things students want to wear. While the Confederate flag is regarded as a symbol of heritage for some, others see it as a racially charged reminder of a past the South should move beyond.

The teen said she has been forced to change clothes or turn her shirt inside-out. She said she has been suspended twice and threatened with being kicked off the track team.

Hardwick says her desire to wear Confederate-themed clothes has been muffled since middle school when she was forced to either change clothes or wear her shirts inside-out. She says she gave up the fight in middle school after two suspensions and threats of being bounced from the track team.

This year, the shirt-wearing raised a ruckus again, prompting an in-school suspension and a missed lunch. "When that happened, it was time to call a lawyer," Daryl Hardwick, the girl’s father, said.

Two of his great-great grandfathers were Confederate veterans, including one who was wounded in both arms at Gettysburg.

Copyright 2006 Asheville Citizen-Times

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