Student challenges N. Marion’s dress code


OCALA – The First Amendment debate over students wearing clothing that displays
the Confederate battle flag continues at North Marion High School.

Monday, sophomore April Brenay, 15, began to circulate a petition among students
urging the school do away with the dress code policy banning clothing with the
Confederate flag.

Wednesday, Brenay wore a Dixie Outfitters brand shirt with a Confederate flag
on the back and the message: "If this flag offends you, you need a history

Brenay said school officials intercepted her in the courtyard before school
and took her to the disciplinary office. She said she was there for more than
four hours until her mother picked her up.

Marion County School District spokesman Kevin Christian confirmed one North
Marion student was sent to the office for wearing clothing with the Confederate
flag on it.

"It’s not accepted by the principal and the administration, and the students
know that," he said.

The student was kept in the office after declining to turn the clothing inside
out before returning to class, Christian said.

The flag is addressed as No. 10 in the North Marion High dress code: "The
wearing of or displaying of Confederate (rebel) flags is prohibited."

In 2003, when another student protested the ban, a School District official
said individual schools can ban symbols considered disruptive or offensive.

To some, the flag is a symbol of Southern heritage. For others, it is a reminder
of slavery and has racist overtones.

Brenay said she believes it is a piece of her Southern heritage and she should
be allowed to display it, just as other students may wear clothing with the
flag of the countries to which they trace their heritage.

Her mother, Karen Brenay, agrees. "If you are from the South, it is your
heritage," she said. "It is not a black/white issue with me. It is

In Kentucky, there have been court decisions saying a public school student
has a right under the First Amendment to wear clothing with the Confederate
flag on it. In 2001, a federal appeals court ruled in the case of Castorina
v. Madison County Schools that two students should have been allowed to wear
Hank Williams Jr. concert shirts with the Confederate flag on them.

In another case, Jacqueline Duty v. Russell Independent School District, the
school district settled out of court and paid damages to a woman who was not
allowed to wear a dress designed to look like a Confederate flag to the high
school prom, said Roger McCredie, executive director of the Southern Legal Resource

McCredie’s organization, which advocates to defend the right to express Confederate
heritage, was part of the legal team for both plaintiffs.

"Absent of any proof of disruption in the school, the students cannot
be banned from wearing depictions of the Confederate flag," McCredie said.
"That is the law of the land in the Sixth Circuit."

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