Flags on T-shirts send 15 students home
Record Staff Writer
Tuesday – March 23, 2004
GRANITE FALLS – Fifteen South Caldwell High students spent Monday afternoon at home, thanks to the rebel flags on their t-shirts.
Principal Byron Jones said students violated the school dress code and ignored a letter sent home last week signaling a crackdown Monday.
Jones says he was instructed by the superintendent and school attorney to strictly enforce the rule.
The principal said racial tensions intensified in recent weeks. That led to the crackdown.
"Students were told not to wear the confederate flag, or the Dixie Outfitter T-shirts," Jones said. "They were given a choice of going home to change or having another shirt brought to them. If they chose not to, they would be sent home. These 15 chose not to."
Dixie Outfitters, based in Odum, Ga., is a leading manufacturer of T-shirts bearing the confederate battle flag.
"All of our flags are done from a historical perspective," said owner Dewey Barber. "When people see the confederate flag, they think of us. We have no slogans on our shirts that could possibly be considered offensive."
"We’re more of an Abercrombie & Fitch kind of school," Jones said.
The T-shirt worn by 17-year-old South Caldwell student Chris Anthony bears a confederate flag with the slogan, "Dixie will never burn again" emblazoned across the back.
He says he’s not a racist.
"I don’t consider the flag racist, because it’s part of who I am," he said. "It’s just me. I don’t hate blacks."
Anthony says he and the others were targeted.
"People think if you wear a rebel flag you’re a racist," the South Caldwell junior said.
Anthony says he can’t understand why students can wear their pants low, with long shirts and chains, and the principal not say anything.
"The way I see it, they look like thugs," he said. "I don’t think it’s fair. They’re expressing who they are, I’m doing the same thing."
Jones said all are treated equally.
"We’ve addressed the issue of the saggy pants," he said. "I’ve not seen any that hang down that low. They would come under the same scrutiny, but there’s five administrators here and 1,500 students."
South Caldwell High School is 99 percent caucasian, with only eight black students and four to six Hispanic students, Jones said.
Joshua Wallace, 16, says he’s been wearing his Dixie Outfitter T-shirt all year.
"I was shocked," he said about being sent home. "I feel they were targeting just those wearing Dixie Outfitter shirts or rebel flags. I’m going to wear the same shirt tomorrow. They’ll probably make me go home again."
Silverlee Wallace, Josh’s mom, said her son was just being himself.
"Can our children not express their views on their history?" Wallace said. "It’s an infringement on freedom of expression. This is my tax dollars wasted, over something my son likes to wear. Somebody has to do something now."