Flag Ban Lifted in Sampson County School

From: "northcarolinasouth"

Hobbton High School in Newton Grove, NC has lifted its ban on t-shirts with flags after being threatened by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU was called in by Gayle Langston, the parent of a student who wanted to wear an American flag t-shirt on 11 September.

Principal Wesley Johnson claims he instituted the ban in response to flags that were being worn as "gang symbols." However, many (including Langston) believe that Johnson was attempting to crack down on students wearing Confederate flags. "I can understand banning the Confederate flag because that’s wrong and ignorant," said Langston.

Presumably, the recent decision made by Superintendent Stewart Hobbs (overruling Principal Johnson’s ban) means that all flags, including the Confederate flag, can now be worn at the school.

Superintendent Hobbs can be contacted at (910) 592-1401 ext. 20150, by fax at (910) 590-2445 or via e-mail at shobbs@sampson.k12.nc.us Principal Johnson can be contacted at (910) 594-0242, by fax at (910) 594-1115 or via e-mail at wesleyj@sampson.k12.nc.us

Coverage follows from the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer and the Dunn (NC) Daily Record.

>From staff reports
Published: Sep 12, 2007 05:00 PM

A Sampson County High School that had come under fire for its ban on T-shirts bearing the American flag has reversed that policy. In a recorded telephone message to parents and teachers, Superintendent L. Stewart Hobbs, Jr. said that the ban on flags is no longer in effect at Hobbton High School. Future dress code decisions will be made at the district level with approval of the school board.

Gayle Langston of Turkey had sounded the alarm about the policy when her daughter Jessica was told on Friday not to wear her flag shirt again. She wanted to wear her flag shirt on Tuesday, the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Langston said.

Langston called local media outlets, and those reports have circulated through email and chat rooms, prompting outraged responses from as far away as Hawaii.

"We’re in America and we’ve got to stand up for what’s right," Langston said. "We are the land of the free. What are they going to take way from us next?"

The district said that a blanket no-flag policy evolved at the school from a dispute over other flags.

"We have had a disruption in the school caused by the wearing of certain flags by our students…," Hobbs said in a written statement earlier today.

The American Civil Liberties Union also stepped into the fray, penning a letter to district officials decrying the policy.

"..This rule is a violation of the students’ right to free speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution — with regard to American flags, as well as the flags of any other country," said the letter signed by Katherine Lewis Parker, legal director of the group’s North Carolina chapter.

Langston isn’t sure which flags prompted the policy — suspects include the Confederate flag or the flags of Latin American nations worn by the school’s growing number of Latino students.

Langston said she could understand banning other flags if they offend or cause conflict among students — but not the stars and stripes.

"With the American flag, there’s no excuse," she said. "If you’re offended, you shouldn’t be here."

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Students at Sampson school not allowed to wear clothes with flags.
9/12/2007 10:41:00 AM

Shelah Ogletree
Reporter for The Daily Record

An area high school has banned all flags due to problems with gang activities. The ban includes the flag of the United States of America.

Yesterday some students wore clothing depicting the American flag to school to commemorate Patriot Day. Some who wore the flag were asked to change clothes or cover their shirts with a jacket.

Sampson County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stewart Hobbs said the ban is not countywide, but was instituted by the Hobbton High School Principal Wesley Johnson in response to flags of foreign countries that were being worn as gang symbols.

Dr. Hobbs said the school system is not happy with Hobbton policy, but agreed that it was necessary to keep peace and to avoid a lawsuit over freedom of speech.

"We’re not happy with it," Dr. Hobbs said. "Our kids go into the school building and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag every day, but we just got over one lawsuit over free speech."

Former Midway High School student Ben Arthurs, now graduated, filed suit against Sampson County Schools last year when he said the school refused to allow him to pass out religious materials in the hallway.

He said at the time his actions were prompted by another group who had been handing out their materials earlier. That lawsuit was settled out of court, but no details of the agreement were released by either party.

"We’re as American as we can be, but the law restricts us from banning one flag without banning all of them," Dr. Hobbs said. "I spoke to the attorney for the school board, Ben Wright, and he agreed the overall ban was the only way to avoid a lawsuit."

Student Jessica Langston of Turkey, 17, wore a shirt yesterday in memory of 9/11, which featured the American flag. She said Assistant Principal Jennifer Daughtry saw her shirt and reminded her wearing the flag is against school policy.

Jessica’s mom, Gayle Langston, was livid when she found out about the rule and has spent hours since contacting major news media, military leaders and anyone else who will listen.

"I’m so mad I don’t know what to do," Mrs. Langston said. "This is America and we should be able to wear the American flag. If someone is offended by the flag of our country, let them go on back to wherever they came from."

Mrs. Langston said her daughter is a good student and Beta Club member, plays volleyball and softball, and is a member of the Future Business Leaders of America.

She also said Jessica was not ill-treated by the school staff, just surprised.

"I think she was shocked more than anything," Mrs. Langston said. "I was the one who was mad. She just doesn’t understand why they can’t wear their flags."

Mrs. Langston said Ms. Daughtry noticed Jessica’s shirt at the end of the school day.

"She asked Jessica, ‘Has anyone spoken to you about your shirt? You know you you’re not supposed to wear that,’" she said.

Mrs. Langston said Ms. Daughtry later told her the flags are offending people and the school wants them removed.

"I can understand banning the Confederate flag because that’s wrong and ignorant," Mrs. Langston said. "(But) this is an outrage and an embarrassment to all Americans. Americans should be standing up for this.

"That’s the trouble now, people aren’t speaking out enough," Mrs. Langston said. "I just want something to be done."

Ms. Daughtry said she was just doing her job when she reminded Jessica that even the flag of the United States is not allowed to be worn at school.

"Our school was disrupted last year through the flag issue," Ms. Daughtry said. "I am not able to say much because of confidentiality, but we have a lot of countries represented in our school."

Ms. Daughtry said the decision to ban flags was made by Principal Johnson.

"He felt that was the only way we could keep safety in our school, was to have no flags of any kind worn," she said