SLRC to investigate Texas school’s actions following removal of Confederate artifacts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, October 27, 2006

ALVIN, TX – The Southern Legal Resource Center has been asked to investigate Harby Junior High School’s removal of Confederate-related memorabilia from a long-standing school display, as well as the school administration’s treatment of students and parents who have been petitioning to have the items returned to public view.

At least two students have been disciplined by school officials for displaying Confederate symbols in the meantime, and the mother of one student has been threatened with arrest if she attempts to set foot on school property.

The school is named for Grace Harby, a longtime and highly regarded local elementary school teacher who was also active in the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Prior to her death she donated several personal items to the school, including pictures and her UDC pin and membership certificate. The UDC items displayed that organization’s seal, which includes a small representation of the “Stars and Bars” – the Confederate First National flag, a design completely different from the better known Battle Flag. In August, after administrators reportedly saw a parent photographing the exhibit, the Confederate items were removed, prompting a grassroots effort to have them restored.

Then, in September, one student was ordered to remove a belt buckle which showed crossed U.S. and Confederate flags, while another student had a Confederate flag sticker removed from his notebook. When one student’s mother, Tracee Alexander, attempted to set a meeting with school officials, she received a letter from Eugene A. Lewis, Jr., who signed himself “Chief of Police” of the “Alvin I.S.D. Police Department” forbidding her to contact the school further.

Lewis’ letter reads, in part:

“I regret to inform you that your presence on the campus of Harby Junior High School has become a disruption to the normal and orderly routine of the school … you may no longer come onto the

[school] campus for any purpose other than to drop-off or pick-up your son …Failure to comply with this request could result in your arrest or subject you to prosecution …”

Ms. Alexander says she has caused no disruption and has only come onto the school campus at the invitation of school officials.

“This is nothing but rank intimidation,” said SLRC attorney Kirk Lyons. “It appears the school did something unwarranted and unpopular and is now trying to stifle dissent by using intimidation and threats.”
Officials have inidicated that although there has been no trouble among students relating to Confederate symbols, the school now considers them “inappropriate and potentially disruptive.”

The Southern Legal Resource Center, a civil rights legal organization specializing in Southern cultural matters, successfully sued a Kentucky school board in 2001 over its ban of Confederate symbols. In that case, Castorina vs. Madison County Schools, the Court held that mere anticipation of disruption was not sufficient to deny students’ First Amendment rights in displaying the Confederate flag. The Castorina case served as the precedent for a second SLRC victory in 2005, when another school board settled out-of-court after a student sued because she was banned from her senior prom for wearing a Confederate-themed evening dress.

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Roger McCredie
Executive Director
(828) 669-5189