Boy asks board to lift T-shirt ban on Stars & Bars
By HILLARY WHITCOMB JESSE
YALE — The red-and-blue Confederate flag gets no welcome at Yale High School, but senior Ryan Deaner is working to change that.
Ryan, 16, of Yale approached the school board this month to change the high school dress code. The code prohibits wearing the Confederate flag in school.
The board referred the issue to the district’s administrative committee.
"We’re going to talk about it, and, at the August meeting, we’ll make a recommendation to the board," Superintendent Ralph Darin said Friday.
The committee meets Aug. 10; the board meets Aug. 12.
Darin said high school Principal Ken Nicholl and Assistant Superintendent Frank Johnson, who was principal of the school when the Confederate flag rule was added to the dress code, will be asked to talk to the committee.
Ryan said not allowing him to wear a T-shirt he made showing the Confederate battle flag and describing it as "a representation of the Southern defiance and American heritage," censors his right to freedom of expression.
"The school is a government institution, and it should be governed by the same laws as the government is," Ryan said.
A response letter to Ryan from Michael Steinberg, Michigan American Civil Liberties Union legal director, said the rule probably is overbroad unless school officials can show "that anyone wearing the Confederate flag at (Yale High School) under any circumstances will disrupt (the) school."
Ryan got about 160 of the school’s about 700 students to sign a petition to amend the code to prohibit clothes "that depict, suggest or portray (the) Confederate flag as racist in meaning …"
Sophomore Tim Conley Jr., 16, of Greenwood Township is familiar with the issue. He didn’t see Ryan’s petition but said he wouldn’t have signed it.
"There’s more things we can worry about than this," Tim said. "I think the situation is a little bit out of control. I think the Confederate flag can mean many different things."
Ryan said he’s trying to expose his classmates to a different point of view.
"(A) lot of time they don’t have very wide viewpoints anymore. A lot of kids see the flag as racist," Ryan said.
"I say it’s part of the American heritage because it’s (the Southern rebellion and secession) such a huge factor. Our society is based on defying the people in charge," he said.
"It’s like trying to censor parts of American history because they may be a bit sensitive. I’m expressing my view on American history. I believe a lot in the Southern ideals. Aren’t all teens rebellious in some way? This is my way of rebelling against a politically repressive system."