From: Mailing List  (
Date: Fri, Oct 8, 2010
Subject: [SLRC Update] [Fwd: Heritage Victory in Gaston County Schools]



GASTON COUNTY, NC – Thanks to information and advice from the Southern Legal Resource Center, a Gaston County student will once again be able to wear Confederate-themed clothing to class without fear of
"disciplinary" action.

Travis Lewis, 17, a student at Hunter Huss High School in Gaston County, received an apology from the local Superintendent of Schools and was assured that he can begin wearing his Dixie Outfitters Confederate-themed
t-shirts to class again, starting Monday.  The Superintendent’s actions reversed those of the high school principal, who on Tuesday had told Travis the Dixie Outfitters shirt he was wearing was "inappropriate" and that he
would have to change or cover it up.  When Travis and another student demurred, reports say, Gaston County police officers and other school administrators converged on the students, who then complied.  Travis’
father, Scott Lewis, said his son had been wearing the shirts for three years with no complaint or disruption.  According to Lewis Sr., the principal told him a Mexican flag shirt, for instance, would have been appropriate to wear but that Confederate symbols had caused tension within the past few years.

At this point, the Lewises sought direction from the SLRC.  Chief Trial Counsel Kirk Lyons advised them that theoretically the school could ban Confederate shirts if there were clear and present danger of "substantial and material disruption"; but otherwise to do so was an abridgement of the student’s First Amendment rights.  Lyons cited two landmark cases, Tinker Vs. Des Moines and Frederick v. Morse as precedents.  Armed with this information, the Lewises went back to the school board.  The school system’s attorney said he had no knowledge of any specific ban on Confederate symbols.  Today the Superintendent issued his apology, told Travis he was free to wear his shirts beginning Monday, and according to Mr. Lewis, "promised to make sure [the principal] better understands the policy and the law."

"This is a good example of how these types of situations can be defused with just proper and open communication," Lyons said.  "It’s also an example of the many such incidents the SLRC is able to help resolve without taking anybody to court."