Some claims dismissed in Confederate flag lawsuit
JEFF BARNARD, Associated Press
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed some of the claims in a lawsuit brought by a Medford school bus driver fired for refusing to take a Confederate battle flag off his pickup truck while parked on school property.
But Ken Webber’s central claim that he should get his job back because the firing violated his First Amendment right to free speech is going forward in U.S. District Court in Medford.
Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke ruled Tuesday that Webber has not shown the Phoenix-Talent School District or the First Student Inc. bus company discriminated against him in violation of his 14th Amendment equal protection rights. He also dismissed claims under the Oregon Constitution.
The school district and the bus company did not seek dismissal of the First Amendment claim. No hearing has been set for that yet.
Webber, who is married with four children and remains out of work, said the flag was still flying from his pickup and he was keeping busy going to Rogue Community College for a degree in juvenile corrections.
"I’m not backing down from this," he said.
Webber’s attorney, Thomas Boardman, said he was disappointed at the ruling, but remained confident Webber would get his job back.
School superintendent Ben Bergreen, First Student spokeswoman Bonnie Bastian and school district attorney Morgan Smith all declined to comment.
Webber was fired last March for gross insubordination after twice refusing to take the flag off his CB antenna while parked in the bus yard in Talent, which is owned by the school district. The flag, emblazoned with the word, "Redneck," was a gift from his father.
Bergreen had demanded the flag be removed from school property, citing a policy prohibiting symbols that could be offensive to minorities.
Webber has maintained the flag is not a political or racist statement, but an expression of his "redneck" identity, which is also expressed in a tattoo on his left arm.
© 2011 Hearst Communications Inc.