WVLT TV KNOXVILLE
Group files lawsuit against school district over confederate flag
Knoxville (WVLT) – It’s official, as Volunteer TV was the first to report, the Blount County School System is now the focus of a lawsuit.
A group of students claiming their constitutional rights are being violated because they are not allowed to display the confederate flag are suing in federal court.
As WVLT’s Blount County Bureau Chief Stephen McLamb explains, this could be a long and costly court battle.
"I’ve covered a lawsuit that dealt with the confederate symbol once before when I was working in Selma, Alabama," says McLamb. "That case took three years to decide and was the most costly court case in the city’s history."
The question tonight, no matter what side of the issue you stand on, how much will it cost taxpayers to resolve?
A Knoxville attorney and attorneys with the North Carolina-based Southern Legal Resource Center filed suit in federal court against officials at William Blount High School and the school board. The suit stems from a nearly year long ban on students wearing confederate symbols on clothing.
"Their students do have rights. Their students’ rights do not end at the schoolhouse door, that they are individuals protected by the law of the land," says Roger McCredie, Executive Director of the SLRC.
"They have just blithely assumed there, I think, at the board of education that nobody was going to take them to task on it. The Castorina decision, which was made by the sixth circuit, has been the law of this circuit since 2002," says SLRC Chief Trial Counsel, Kirk Lyons.
The Castorina case is a similar case from Kentucky which ruled in favor of the student. The attorneys hope to use that to urge a federal judge soon for a preliminary injunction.
"Requesting an order that they stop enforcing a policy they have banning confederate flags," says Van Irions.
Local Sons Of Confederate Veterans Camp Commander Ron Jones has said there are several schools with similar confederate symbol bans in counties surrounding Blount.
"It takes somebody to take them to court. So all those other schools out there, we’re here to tell you, get in line you’re now playing Castorina Roulette and Blount County is the current winner," says Lyons.
So will this suit cost taxpayers? Lyons says with strong case law in their favor, it can.
"What we’re [seeing] in several cases is the insurance company refusing to stand behind these schools saying that’s an intentional act," Lyons explains.
McCredie says since the Castorina decision was decided, no school district has won.
Irions says they are hoping for a judge’s ruling on a preliminary injunction in the next few weeks.
Blount school officials say they have not received a copy of the suit but say, if they did, they would be unable to comment.