SLRC demands that a Blount County high school drop its ban on the display of Confederate symbols

The Southern Legal Resource Center has demanded that a Blount County high school
drop its ban on the display of Confederate symbols by its students, or face a
lawsuit similar to one now under way against the other high school in the county.

In a letter sent Friday to Heritage High School Principal Patty Mandigo, the
SLRC said it is acting on behalf of Heritage High student Spencer Stinnett,
who has been subjected to several instances of disciplinary action for displaying
the Confederate flag in various forms. The letter says the school’s anti-Confederate
symbols policy is based on regulations that are legally flawed and selectively
enforced. It further states that if the school does not remove its ban voluntarily,
the SLRC “will be forced to take sterner measures to vindicate our clients’

According to the letter, in addition to violation of his free speech rights,
the flag ban also subjects Stinnett to religious discrimination because the
Confederate battle flag features St. Andrew’s Cross, and also to racial
discrimination because it institutionalizes the idea that Confederate symbols
represent slavery and white supremacy, an idea which the SLRC says schools could
help overcome through dialogue and proper education. “By banning Confederate
symbols without a proper explanation of the meaning of the symbol, or, worse,
by deliberately equating these symbols with ‘racism’ as an excuse
for banning them, the school partakes of precisely the same bigotry it claims
to denounce,” the letter states.

In March of 2006 the SLRC and Knoxville Attorney Van Irion sued Blount County
schools in similar circumstances, on behalf of two minor students. That case
is now scheduled to be heard by the U. S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in
early June. The case is based in part on the precedent set by another SLRC case,
Castorina v. Madison County Schools, in which a Kentucky school board’s
ban on Confederate symbols was overturned. The Castorina decision is thus established
law in the Sixth Circuit, which includes Tennessee.

In February of this year a Knoxville television station reported that taxpayer
costs of the first lawsuit, including wrangling over a preliminary injunction
requested by the SLRC, already exceeded $53,000.

The SLRC is a registered nonprofit organization that coordinates legal assistance
for persons whose civil rights have been violated in connection with Southern
heritage issues.

The Southern Legal Resource Center