April 8, 2004
Dr. Jeanette F. Hedrick
Cherokee County Schools
911 Andrews Road
Murphy, North Carolina 28906
By facsimile: (828) 837-5799
Dear Dr. Hedrick:
The Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC) has been contacted with respect to several recent incidents at Andrews High School regarding students who were ordered to remove articles of Confederate clothing or face disciplinary action. We understand that a male student attending the school’s prom was made to remove a Confederate flag design tuxedo jacket; a female student was ordered to turn a Confederate-theme t-shirt inside out; and another male student had a Confederate-theme hat confiscated. We further understand that there will be a called meeting of the school board tonight, April 9, for the purpose of considering a county-wide ban on all Confederate symbols in the schools.
Dr. Hedrick, the SLRC is a non-profit legal foundation that provides advocacy for individuals whose rights have been violated in connection with expressing pride in their Southern/Confederate heritage. As such we are able to point out that the high school’s actions against the students in question may constitute very real and very flagrant abridgements of their constitutional and civil rights. The students and their parents are aware of this. They are also aware that recent Federal court decisions in this and other circuits have set precedents that frankly would give them a very good chance of prevailing if they should decide to litigate against the school system. One such case, dealing specifically with Confederate clothing, is a 6th Circuit decision, Castorina v. Madison County School Board (2001). A more recent decision, Newsom v. Albemarle County School Board, et al (2003), has expanded student free speech in this very circuit. Needless to say, however, the students involved only want to be allowed to express their legitimate pride in their Confederate ancestry without being punished, humiliated, threatened or intimidated.
As of yet the SLRC is only investigating this matter, nor have we agreed to represent any Cherokee County families. The legal side of our organization is not involved – yet. My prayer is that your earnest good will and cooperation will help us keep it that way.
I have been a civil rights advocate my entire adult life and am the immediate Past President of the Asheville Branch of the NAACP. I know and have walked both sides of the street. Currently I am in the midst of a 260 mile march from North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina – carrying a Confederate flag! I am here to tell you that I have received love and support from the Black community all along the way.
If you will lay aside the seeming institutional bias against Confederate symbols that seems to stalk Boards of Education and postpone a final decision on any Confederate symbols ban, it will be my pleasure and that of the Southern Legal Resource Center to assist you.
The SLRC has many excellent interpretive and educational resources at its command and would welcome the opportunity to make a presentation to your board, outlining the history of various Confederate symbols, their usage and their place in our own culture. If I may say so, this is a situation that calls for education and dialog, not for a hasty policy decision that could have serious consequences.
Please feel free to contact me at (828) 669-5189, and to visit our website, www.slrc-csa.org. Thank you for your attention.
H. K. Edgerton
Chairman, Board of Advisors
Southern Legal Resource Center