Confederate symbol flap leads to a petition drive by two students
By RICHARD STEWART
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

ALVIN – The Texas commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans urged Alvin school district trustees Tuesday to allow students to display Confederate flags.

Ron Strybos, of Angleton, also asked that two mementos belonging to Grace Ward Harby be returned to the junior high named for her.

"Your school administrators have created an atmosphere of fear and intolerance in your school," Strybos said. "You, as the school board, can bring it to an end."

Strybos spoke on behalf of Marshall Alexander and Robert Kaufman, two 13-year-old eighth-grade students at Harby Junior High School who have collected 850 signatures on petitions seeking to have the symbols returned.

In August teachers and administrators asked Robert to remove a Confederate flag he’d put on the outside of his loose-leaf binder and Marshall was told that his Confederate battle flag belt buckle didn’t meet the school dress code.

A few days later, parents attending an open house at the school questioned why the boys couldn’t wear Confederate flags when a display case at the school held two items that had Confederate flags on them.

Not wanting to offend patrons, school officials removed the two items, said district spokeswoman Shirley Brothers.

They were a United Daughters of the Confederacy pin and a membership certificate that had belonged to the school’s namesake, Grace Ward Harby, who died in 1995.

After the meeting, school board president J.B. Hensler said the presentation won’t change school district policy prohibiting students from wearing anything that can be considered disruptive or divisive.

"A belt buckle that size can also be used as a weapon," Hensler said.

Hensler said Harby’s family has asked that the mementos be given to a city history museum now being built in Alvin’s old post office building.

He said he knew Harby and believes she would be upset to see her United Daughters of the Confederacy items used to disrupt school rules.

Strybos said he also knew Harby. "She wanted those items in that school and she wanted students to ask questions about them so their teachers could teach them about what they meant," he said.

Alvin was founded by Confederate veterans, has many downtown streets named for Confederate generals and has a Confederate cemetery, he said.

"Perhaps you should just do as Mrs. Grace Ward Harby suggested and teach the students about the War Between the States and the sacrifices that her father and all Southerners made way back in 1861," Strybos said. "You couldn’t ask for a better town in which to teach that lesson than Alvin."

Tracee Alexander said she plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of her son.

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