Some Pamlico High students want ban of Confederate flag on clothing lifted

May 05,2004
Sandy Wall
Sun Journal Staff

BAYBORO — A handful of students from Pamlico County High School asked school board members Monday night to rescind their school’s ban on clothing that contains the Confederate flag, arguing it strips them of their Southern heritage and compromises their First Amendment rights.

The three students, all of whom were white, told board members that they don’t believe the clothing creates any conflicts at their school, and they presented the board with a 201-name petition urging it to allow the clothing.

"Most people we’ve talked to don’t have a problem with it," said 17-year-old Kristina Mayeur. "We’ve talked to black kids about it."

The future of the ban is unclear. After seeking advice from their attorney in a closed session, Pamlico school board members late Monday agreed to have the attorney review the system’s written dress code and make recommendations for possible changes next month.

"They want to be sure that they’re doing the right thing and that the dress code reflects that," Superintendent Julia Mobley said Tuesday. "We’re going to wait and see what the revision is when it comes back. We’re going to take his advice and whatever revisions he suggests, we’ll make."

The ban on clothing with the Confederate flag was put in place at Pamlico County High earlier this school year. Principal Tom Frazier said the decision was made after some students who were wearing flag-clothing items began showing them off, which created tension at the school.

"We had students that were pointing to it, drawing attention to it," Frazier said. "It was being used provocatively to target certain groups of students."

Pamlico County High’s current handbook gives the principal the power to ban clothing that is disruptive, provocative or endangers the health or safety of its wearer or others. Frazier said he exercised that power to preserve good relations among his school’s 690-member student body, which is about two-thirds white and about one-third black.

"It was getting ready to heat up, so we had to address it," Frazier said. "We just don’t want to cause a disruption, a heated situation."

Mayeur and the other students contend the flag-clothing was not being used provocatively or in a way designed to create any disturbances. Instead, they say it was being used to show pride in Southern heritage.

"The Confederate flag is only a racist symbol to racist people," student Chris Grose, 17, said.

Mayeur said racist groups have misused the Confederate flag. "They stole it to use it," she said.

Grose said he’s run into trouble with school administrators for wearing clothing with the flag. On the first occasion, he was warned not to wear his battle flag belt buckle again. When he then wore a belt with the various Confederate national flags, he said he was sent home.

Grose said he then wore a shirt manufactured by a company called Dixie Outfitters that features a censored line of Confederate battle flags and a caption that reads: "Jesus and the Confederate battle flag — Banned from our schools, but forever in our hearts." He said he got suspended again.

"I figured that was the one shirt they couldn’t touch me for," Grose said.

Frazier would not comment on any specific cases, but did say that, "Students were only suspended after multiple infractions after the ruling."

The display of the Confederate battle has become a source of controversy in other schools. Earlier this year, South Caldwell High School in the western part of the state rescinded a similar ban.

For its part, Craven County Schools does not have a policy on clothing with the Confederate flag, a spokesman said. But other schools have banned the wearing of such clothing on the grounds that it could create a disturbance.

At Monday’s meeting, one Pamlico school board member suggested that the students consider what the flag signifies to some minority students.

"To most black folks, this Confederate flag has always been depressing," said 70-year-old James Mason, one of two black people on the seven-member school board.

He said that, to many, the flag is a symbol of slavery and segregation, and he added that the ban is designed to ensure everyone gets along.

"This protects you from having a conflict," Mason told the students.

If you have comments on the issue above, we urge you to contact the people below:
Tom Frazier, Prinicipal
Pamlico County Schools