DAVID & MARGARET WRIGHT
274 Cope Road
Andrews, NC 28901
April 7, 2004
Dr. Janette Hedrick
Cherokee County Board of Education
911 Andrews Road
Murphy, NC 28906
Re: William David “Will” Wright and incident at March 27, 2004 Junior Prom
Dear Dr. Hedrick:
We hereby waive our son’s right to a closed session consideration by the Cherokee County Board of Education of the above referenced incident. It is our desire that this matter be freely discussed before the other citizens of Cherokee County.
Please regard this letter as an official request to the Cherokee County Board of Education to disavow the actions of Andrews High School Principal Mike Rogers in ordering our son, William David Wright, to remove his Confederate theme tuxedo jacket at the March 27, 2004 Andrews High School Junior Prom. This letter is also to insist on an apology from Mr. Rogers.
It is our understanding that the Cherokee County Board of Education is considering a policy ban on Confederate symbols for all Cherokee County Schools. We vigorously oppose this action and assert that further study on this issue is necessary before an intelligent vote by the board can be made. Attached to this letter is a copy of a publication of the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, The Guide to Confederate Issues in North Carolina, an excellent publication that could be used as part of an educational seminar for those persons who don’t realize that many good and decent people legitimately revere the Confederate or Rebel flag, its cause and their ancestors who fought under it.
The following is submitted and is intended to put you, Mr. Rogers and the Cherokee County Board of Education on notice of the following:
1. Our son has a First Amendment right to wear his Confederate shirts, subject to the 1969 Supreme Court decision in Tinker. The case dealt with students wearing black armbands protesting the Vietnam War. Their conduct was within the protection of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth.
2. Our son has a constitutional right under the 9th Amendment to his heritage: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
3. Our son is a Confederate Southern-American as are we. This is a minority group just like Blacks, Hispanics, Indians, etc. The Confederate Battle flag is a venerated symbol of our son’s ancestry. North Carolina was a Confederate State and that is an undeniable part of our State’s history and heritage. The Confederate Battle flag qualifies as a venerated object under North Carolina law.
4. The Confederate Battle flag is a venerated symbol of our sons’ Christian religious faith. The Confederate Battle flag is emblazoned with the cross of St. Andrew, one of Christ’s disciples and the patron saint of Scotland. Andrew was crucified on an “X” shaped cross. The “X” cross also is the Greek letter “Chi” which stood for “Christos,” or “Christ,” the same way we use “Xmas” as an abbreviation for Christmas. When my son sees a Confederate flag, he sees a venerated symbol of his Christian religious faith. Other students are allowed to display emblems of their faith and have not been told to stop doing so. This is our specific request that you accommodate our son in his religious beliefs by allowing him to display the Confederate flag (always in an inoffensive manner), as is his right.
5. Lastly, your ban on Confederate symbols re-enforces the prejudices of those few in our community hostile to confederate symbols. Some students, teachers and parents, in their ignorance, may associate the Confederate Battle flag with the Klan and white supremacy. Your banning of Confederate symbols would underwrite those beliefs and potentially stigmatize our son as a racist.
Our son has an inalienable right to his southern heritage-that a public school should not be able to squash his individuality.
We are coming before this board as concerned parents. We feel strongly about this or we would not be here. We have made a sincere good faith effort to resolve this matter before appearing at your meeting. First we attempted to get in touch with Mr. West and he was out of town. We contacted Dr. Ackerman and he said he didn’t want to know any details in case it came before the board. He suggested we go back to Mr. Rogers and attempt to handle it there. We told him it would probably not do any good and we didn’t feel comfortable doing that. He then said our next step was to talk to the Superintendent Dr. Hedrick, who also suggested we go to Mr. Rogers. We did as Dr. Hedrick requested meeting with not only with Mr. Rogers the principal, but Jeana Hardin, the assistant principal as well. We honestly feel all anyone wants me to do is to drop the issue and pretend it didn’t happen. Normally that is just what we would have done, but this is not about us, it is about our child as well as the environments surrounding Andrews High School in general and the rights of all students.
If we don’t stand up for our son, especially when he has done nothing wrong, then we don’t count much as parents, people or members of our community.
We are very proud of our son, and thankful that God spared his life in what could have been a tragic school accident last November during a Veteran’s Day Program.
We were so grateful God worked a miracle in his life. We don’t think God spared Wills’ life only to be turned away at the door of his Junior Prom. The alternative to what could have happen is beyond comprehension. I also want to say at this point that we am proud to be able to come to you tonight on behalf of our son, because he could have easily never have attended the prom. Students are told to think outside of the box. Our son did think for himself and came up with the idea of a “Rebel Flag” tuxedo. It was designed by his 15-year old sister, which in itself says a lot and made with loving hands by his grandmother. After completion of the tux, Will tried on his outfit all together. His sister, Cecile, looked at him and said, “Will you look awesome. That is so you.” They both looked at their Granny and said, “You’ve done well.” There is no one in this room that knows any student who would even consider wearing a handmade outfit, especially to the prom. We are told to get students to “think outside of the box.” This young man and woman did. It was an original creation that has never been seen by anyone in the United States or the world. What if someone had stopped Betsy Ross form making the America Flag, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers or any other Great inventor where would we be today? This was an opportunity for his classmates to see something that had never been seen before. We both approved of our sons attire for the prom. It was suitable for the occasion and in good taste.
Upon arriving at the prom our son was giving his tickets at the door, the principal was motioning for him, before he even could get in and before he could get his date in. She was left behind, because Mr. Rogers wanted to speak to him immediately. Mr. Rogers told him he would have to remove his coat because it might be offensive to someone there. Our son did remove the jacket upon request and acted at all times like the gentleman he is. There were many things at or about the prom itself that could be considered offensive to some, yet our son was the only student singled out for such treatment. Will was embarrassed and humiliated for displaying pride in his ancestry. Mr. Rogers promoted the idea of racism when he banned Will from wearing the Rebel Flag tuxedo. He planted in the mind of his fellow classmates that something was “wrong” with it, when he asked him to remove it. There was no disruption, there was no hint of disruption. Mr. Rogers was the disruption. And he should apologize.
What is heartbreaking about all of this is that school officials did not let it die Saturday night at the prom. Mr. Rogers came in Monday morning at Andrews High School and asked one female student to change her shirt due to the Confederate flag and another young man’s hat was taken. The students were confused because Confederate symbols in Andrews High School has never been a problem. Why did the administrators of Andrews High School create a problem when one didn’t exist? Maybe it was to cover up after the decision Saturday night at the prom. Whatever the reason, it was wrong. Conflict and confusion has been started when it could have been avoided. The students of Andrews High School are upset and want banning Confederate symbols to stop. When you ban one favored symbol, but not all, you don’t decrease racial tension, you increase it.
Further, we are offended by students wearing the following shirts to school: “I have an attitude, what about it”, or “Ride it like you stole it”, “No fear shirts”, “Bad attitude is cool”, “If you had it last night, Smile,’ “Pitch a tent, take a girl and you got it made,” etc. But no one in the Cherokee County School system seems to care if we are offended or not.
We would also like to make it clear that we did not contact the press. When they contacted us, we allowed Will to respond. We did however contact a Black Confederate activist, H. K. Edgerton of the Southern Legal Resource Center, who promised to send a letter to Dr. Hedrick. The only reason Mr. Edgerton will not be present at the April 9th Board meeting is that he is marching 260 miles from Marion, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina to honor the crew of the CSS Hunley. He would like to work with you to educate those who may be intolerant of Confederate symbols. As he says: “EDUCATION IS THE KEY!”
Our son has done nothing wrong!! We are proud of him, we are proud of his stand and we are willing to “put it on the line” on behalf of our son. This issue will not go away by banning the Confederate flag. This is a moral issue for our family: an issue of simple right and wrong.
We don’t know where y’all are from originally. But now you live in the South, in a former confederate state and in a community where the majority of citizens have Confederate ancestry. Ethnic cleansing stinks just as bad in Andrews as it does in the Balkans.
Mr. Rogers needs to apologize to our son, and y’all really need to consider all sides of this issue before you trample on the dearest rights of ALL Cherokee County students!
David Keith Wright Margaret Warren Wright
Parents of William David Wright
Cc: Chairman Mary Ruth Keller
Members of the Cherokee County Board of Education