Teen Sues School for Censoring Her Confederate Flag T-Shirt
By Jim Brown
April 12, 2006
(AgapePress) – A South Carolina high school is being sued for punishing a 15-year-old student when she tried to wear a T-shirt bearing a small Confederate flag. According to sophomore Candace Hardwick, officials at Latta High School actually ordered the teen to change her shirt, turn it inside out, or else cover the flag image.
It was not the first time Hardwick had been in trouble at school over her wearing of the Confederate emblem. She told The Charlotte Observer that while she attended Latta Middle School, she was suspended twice for wearing shirts featuring the flag of the Confederacy and was also threatened with being kicked off the school’s track team.
This time, rather than accept what she saw as Latta High School officials’ attempt to censor her free expression, Hardwick decided to file a lawsuit charging the school with violating her constitutional rights. Roger McRedie, director of the Southern Legal Resource Center, is representing the high school student and her family in the case.
McRedie disputes the Latta School District’s claim that Hardwick’s shirt somehow "disrupted the education environment" at her school. "There was no disruption in connection with any of this," he contends. "Basically the Confederate issue and the Confederate flag issue had been singled out, and the students wearing it singled out, for what amounted to unfair and unfounded and unnecessary disciplinary action."
District Superintendent John Kirby claims Hardwick was disciplined for violating a portion of the school dress code that bars "the wearing of any articles of clothing or other items which may forseeably disrupt or interfere with the school environment." But her attorney feels the school’s dress code is being enforced capriciously.
After all, McRedie points out, students at Latta High School are allowed to wear Mexican and black nationalist paraphernalia as well as clothing promoting homosexual pride. Meanwhile, he says, Hardwick’s shirt bearing a symbol of Southern pride has been banned.
"We are living in a society which, for the last 20 years or so, has unofficially but very effectively declared war on Southern heritage and the most outward and visible sign of that heritage, which is the Confederate flag and related images," the lawyer observes. "So you’ve got school officials who, whether they actually believe it or not, nevertheless pay lip service to the idea that by banning these images in school they are somehow avoiding trouble."
The Latta School District issued a press release stating that Hardwick’s wearing of the shirt was viewed as disruptive to the educational environment and that Confederate flags have sparked racial tensions among district students in the past. But McRedie insists that the teen’s shirt was not provocative and featured nothing either "profane or objectionable."
According to a Southern Legal Resource Center press release, the lawsuit being brought by Hardwick and her family seeks to have Latta High School’s dress code policy changed and the student’s disciplinary record expunged. The suit also asks for unspecified monetary damages for what the teenager has experienced at the hands of school officials.