Alvin teens appeal Confederate flag decision

By Bridget Brown
The Facts
Published October 24, 2006

ALVIN — Two Harby Junior High students said it is not only their constitutional right to wear and possess images of the Confederate flag while at school, but also a matter of history and respect.

The 13-year-old boys are asking Alvin ISD to honor the city’s founders by returning Confederate memorabilia to a display case at the school and by allowing students to wear Confederate flag symbols to class.

“We want to honor our veterans from all of the wars,” said student Marshall Alexander. “Most students don’t know about this because they aren’t teaching it anymore. You should teach all of history, every single war.”

Alexander said he and his friend, Robert Kauffman, have collected more than 800 names on a petition and are in the process of a second appeal with the district.

Tim Turner, the district’s director of administrative services, is expected to make a decision on the appeal this week, said Tracy Alexander, Marshall Alexander’s mother.

The boys and their parents hope to a overturn a decision made by school officials in August when both the boys were told they could not have any item bearing a Confederate flag at school.

A Confederate flag sticker was removed from Kauffman’s binder, and Alexander was told not to wear a belt buckle with the symbol. The school dress code prohibits anyone from wearing symbols that could be considered disruptive, said the district’s spokeswoman, Shirley Brothers.

“He wore the belt buckle all of last year, and the display has been there for 15 years,” Tracy Alexander said. “It’s never been a problem before. Why now? What’s the difference?”

In August, school officials also removed a United Daughters of the Confederacy pin and membership card from a display case at the school honoring longtime Alvin teacher Gracy Harby, for whom the school was named. The memorabilia now is at the Alvin Museum for review and might stay permanently, Alvin ISD Superintendent Greg Smith said.

“The symbol itself is culturally divisive,” Smith said. “We know for certain that it has caused tension when students have worn the Confederate flag symbol.”

On Aug. 17, Ron Strybos, Texas commander of the Sons of Confederate Soldiers, spoke to the district’s board of directors on the boys’ behalf.

He said most school board members didn’t know Alvin was founded by a man who fought for the Confederacy.

“When I first heard about this I thought it was a joke because the town was founded by a Confederate veteran, and it has a Confederate cemetery,” Strybos said.

Marshall Alexander said the city also has several roads named after Civil War generals — Lee, Jackson and Johnson streets.

Smith said his job is to protect students, and the symbol has caused several fights within the district because of what some see as the flag’s racist connotations.

“Alvin was founded by a lot of great people, and no one is trying to squelch anyone’s freedom of speech,” Smith said.

Since August, Marshall Alexander said he and Kauffman have been threatened verbally by students and teachers at the school.

Still, if the August decision is upheld, Tracy Alexander said the group will move to a level-three appeal to the school board.

“You can’t do away with one part of history. Good, bad or ugly,” she said. “It’s still history and there’s not a rug big enough to sweep it under.”

Bridget Brown covers the city of Alvin for The Facts. Contact her at (979) 849-8581.

© 2006 The Facts

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