Hollywood students clash on whether Confederate-themed clothing should be banned
By Douane D. James
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted January 26 2007
A petition drive to get Confederate-themed clothing banned from school grounds
has exposed a rift at Hollywood Hills High. The episode may lead the Broward School
Board to examine whether its student conduct code should address the Confederate
Sophomore Ilana Hostyk started a petition this week at Hollywood Hills in hopes
of pressing officials to ban the symbol, considered a show of Rebel pride by
some and a reminder of Southern race-based prejudice by others.
The petition garnered as many as 300 signatures but added to tension at Hollywood
Hills after students who support wearing the flag on shirts, belt-buckles or
other garments started a counter petition.
"My whole goal is to ban the Confederate flag from Broward schools,"
said Hostyk, 15. "People are really offended by it."
Hostyk, who is Jewish, said student display of the flag on campus has caused
tension between white, black and Jewish students. About 2,200 students are enrolled
at Hollywood Hills. About 41 percent are white, 20 percent black and 35 percent
Hispanic, according to district records.
Some students have confronted each other on campus this week over the flag
since the petition was circulated, but the incidents have not been violent,
school district spokesman Keith Bromery said. Principal Joyce Ferguson stopped
the petitioning Tuesday on grounds it was done without proper permission, he
School Board member Eleanor Sobel, who represents the Hollywood area, said
she was surprised to learn of the stir over the flag. Sobel said she would prefer
that students not wear or display the flag.
The school has no plans to modify its dress code policy, which does not prohibit
Confederate-themed clothing, but does plan to schedule an open forum where students
can discuss differences with each other and diversity experts, district officials
Sobel said she would push for the School Board to discuss the issue at a future
"I’m satisfied with the way the principal is handling it," Sobel
said. "But looking at this long-term, I think the policy should be clarified
[when] there’s potential for conflict."
The school district does not address the Confederate flag specifically in its
code of conduct, which states that students may not wear clothing that "supports
Sobel said she learned from a School Board attorney that a specific ban of
the flag would not hold up to a court challenge unless it could be proven that
it causes a widespread disruption.
"There’s a difference between dissatisfied and disruption," she said.
Doug Dawson, the Florida division commander for the Sons of Confederate Veterans,
said students should retain the right to display the flag as part of the First
Amendment guarantee of free speech.
"To limit someone from wearing a symbol of their heritage or viewpoint
is constitutionally wrong," Dawson said. "If someone is using a Confederate
symbol to provoke hate, then they’re out of line."
Last year, Seminole Ridge High in rural Palm Beach County banned the Confederate
flag, along with any "shirts with writing, pictures, and/or divisive images."
School leaders cited fears and rumors of clashes between white and black students
as the reason for the sweeping clothing restriction, considered more legally
sound because of its broadness.
Hostyk said she became interested in the Confederate flag last year. She said
she found it curious that it was allowed on campus. After she began circulating
the petition, she quickly learned that many students wanted to sign.
"I started it, but it’s taken on a life of its own," she said