Confederate shirts spark fashion fight in schools

April 6, 2001
Web posted at 5:45 p.m. EDT (2145GMT)

RICHMOND HILL, Georgia (AP)—Zane Dunn wore a banned T-shirts to school and became a rebel with a Confederate cause.

Like six other students at Richmond Hill Middle School, 14-year-old Zane was suspended for a day because of the Confederate flag on the shirt.

More that a century after Lee surrendered at Appomattox and a few moths after defenders of Confederate symbols lost battles in the Georgia and South Carolina statehouses, the fight over Southern heritage has moved to schoolhouses.

"My Confederate ancestors, they died for this flag," said 14-year-old Zane, whose mother bought him the shirt after another student was suspended. "I was born and raised in the South and I have to stand up for it."

Educators say they have banned Confederate symbols to prevent racial violence.

Parents and students from Richmond Hill, 18 miles south of Savannah, wore Confederate shirts and bandanas to a recent Bryan County school board meeting to protest the suspensions last month.

In Cairo, Georgia, rebel flag-waving parents picketed their school board after 50 students at Cairo High School and Washington Middle School were told to change their Confederate shirts.

The American Civil Liberties Union has gotten involved in a similar controversy in Brunswick, Ga., where the principal of Jane Macon Middle School wrote to parents saying the shirts caused "rumors of threats and impending fights."

Cairo High principal Wayne Tootle said the actions do not stem from political correctness but from school shootings that have taught administrators to be wary of anything that might lead to violence.

"School folks are in a very precarious situation," Tootle said. "If they don’t do something to try to prevent, and something happens, then the parents and news media will just lambaste them for what they didn’t do."

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