By Bridget Brown
Published November 7, 2006
ALVIN — Two former Harby Junior High School students who sparked a debate over their right to display Confederate flag symbols have been pulled from school, but the boys’ parents are planning a third appeal to overturn a decision made by Alvin ISD in August.
The parents received notice Saturday that the district denied their level-two appeal, said Mellissa Kauffman, the mother of one of the students involved.
However, the battle for freedom of expression at the school has turned into a war of allegations, with both sides of the debate — the parents of the students and Alvin ISD employees — saying they no longer feel safe.
The boys’ parents have been barred from visiting or calling the campus after staff members said their frequent, unscheduled visits were disruptive.
The parents say the boys were withdrawn from the school last month because they were harassed and threatened daily by teachers and students at the school.
Marshall Alexander and Robert Kauffman, both 13, were told in August to remove clothing and stickers bearing the Confederate flag while at school. School officials then also removed a United Daughters of the Confederacy pin and membership card from a display case at the school, honoring longtime Alvin teacher Grace Harby, for whom the school is named.
The district’s dress code prohibits students from wearing anything that could be considered disruptive. The Confederate flag is a culturally divisive symbol, said district spokeswoman Shirley Brothers.
Mellissa Kauffman said she will do “whatever it takes” to help give Confederate flags a respectful place in history.
“I think it is worth it to pull him out of class to do this all the way,” Mellissa Kauffman said of her son, Robert. “They stood up for their rights, and I am going to stand up with them.”
The parents of both boys no longer are allowed to visit or call the junior high, according to a press release issued by the district.
According to a “warning letter” that was brought to Mellissa Kaufman’s home Oct. 24, district officials claim the parents made threatening phone calls to teachers’ homes and repeatedly came to the campus without appointments.
“The parents were up there so often, so frequently, it became a disruption on the campus,” said Superintendent Greg Smith. “Because of the interaction of parents and staff, the staff began to feel unsafe.”
The letter requests the parents address concerns through the district’s administrators. Failure to comply with the request could result in arrest, according to the letter.
“Be informed that repeated calls or demands to meet with campus administrations and staff have caused alarm and safety concerns among staff members at the school,” the letter states.
Both boys were pulled from the school after their parents received the letters, Mellissa Kauffman said.
“They were harassed by people until we had no choice (but) to take them out of school,” Mellissa Kauffman said.
District officials are investigating to see if the boys were harassed, Smith said.
“Some of that is being reviewed,” Smith said.
Though the boys are being homeschooled, they still were collecting names on a petition seeking to overturn the school district’s decision to ban the flag, Mellissa Kauffman said. More than 800 supporters signed the petition, she said.
The third appeal of the flag ban will be made directly to the school board of trustees.
“We will address everything with the school board,” Mellissa Kauffman said. “It’s gone well beyond the flag at this point.”