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Two Students Suspended for Confederate Shirts

For some reason I’m not sure anyone would understand, two students from Tahoma High School in Maple Valley, Washington decided to show their “Southern pride” by wearing confederate flags to school (apparently around their necks). School officials suspended the students for violating the school’s dress code, which explicitly bans the wearing of such flags.

Sixteen-year-old Grady says he and his friend showed up at the school Monday morning wearing Confederate flags.

“We put ours around our necks and kind of walked around with them,” said Grady, who asked we not use his last name. “It’s just a way of showing our southern pride, nothing racist at all.”

He says they did it after another student came to class wearing a Gay Pride flag.

“If he can wear his flag in support of what he believes, we figured we could do that as well,” Grady said.

But Tahoma High School has banned the flag, calling it a message of hate. And in response, the school district suspended both juniors, saying their flags upset other students and teachers.

“There were complaints from students and staff, yes,” said Kevin Patterson with the Tahoma School District.

This does not comply with the Supreme Court’s precedent in Tinker v Des Moines, however. It isn’t enough that other students or staff complain about it, student speech can only be censored if it causes a material disruption to the school (which is a terrible standard, but it’s still the law). The students are being obnoxious, of course, but that does not mean they don’t have a right to do so in this circumstance. If they file a lawsuit over this, they are likely to win it.

Comments

  1. colnago80 says

    How about a student during the Vietnam War who showed up at school with a Vietcong flag around his/her neck. What’s the difference between a Vietcong flag and a confederate flag?

  2. laurentweppe says

    How about a student during the Vietnam War who showed up at school with a Vietcong flag around his/her neck. What’s the difference between a Vietcong flag and a confederate flag?

    The difference is that the student wearing the Vietcong flag would have been beaten up by the local bullies with the benediction of the teachers and school direction, his or her parents fired from their jobs, the family forced to move away while the wingnuts cheered.

  3. says

    Thanks, commenters. Now I’m picturing a Vietnamese Duks of Hazzard, with Bo and Luk Duk riding the General Le, a scooter painted with the VC flag, trying to jump over something.

  4. doublereed says

    Free Speech should really only be infringed if the phrase “The answer to free speech is more speech” doesn’t apply. I don’t really see anything wrong with wearing some clothing to display your racism.

  5. colnago80 says

    Re laurentweppe

    OK frog, how about a student in the 1930s showing up with a Nazi German flag around their neck?

  6. says

    I could slightly understand if this happened in, say, Alabama or South Carolina… but Washington State? They have a right to express themselves, but come on….

  7. jamessweet says

    I could slightly understand if this happened in, say, Alabama or South Carolina… but Washington State? They have a right to express themselves, but come on….

    It couldn’t have happened in Alabama, because they wouldn’t have been suspended. :p

    Ed is right about the supreme court precedent. As far as what I think ideally should be done, this is right on the edge. It’s a clear expression of racism, but also many people feel that it is not — and censorship gets problematic in a situation like that.

  8. says

    Wearing a shirt with a flag likeness is one thing, wrapping oneself IN a flag is a bit different.

    “Southern Pride”, “White Pride” both = racist fuckwaddery.

    The kids should have been suspended. If they do it again they should be expelled. It’s not free speech, it’s deliberately provocative and disruptive. The student in the news report says that he and his buddy both wear War of Southern Treachery Battle Flag commemorative earrings–every day–and NOBODY complained about it! Fuck them, the pair of racist fucks.

  9. says

    No I mean I could understand the kids wanting to wear the flags if they had been in Alabama… of course they wouldn’t have gotten suspended. But in Washington State, about as far from the Confederate States that you can get, you can’t even pseudo-justify that you are honoring some kind of tradition or history or whatever… yeah, they have the right to wear it, but this does kind of go right up to the edge of incitement, especially if they did it as a reaction to a gay pride t-shirt. Gonna be a mess of a lawsuit.

  10. says

    I could not find a story about the Gay Pride flag being worn to the school–anybody else seen one? Otherwise it might seem that these two KKKlowns are just making shit up–a fine RepubliKKKlan virtue.

  11. dingojack says

    I’m assuming you mean in America in the 30’s (in Germany, at the time, it’d be a sign of patriotism), well totally different, since America was, at that time neutral and the hateful nature of the Nazi regime wasn’t known (even inside Germany itself).
    Bad analogies are just bad.

    Dingo

  12. colnago80 says

    Re dingojack the chihuahua @ #11

    OK let’s rephrase that. What’s the difference between wearing a Confederate Flag and wearing a Vietcong Flag during the Vietnam War?

  13. raven says

    I could slightly understand if this happened in, say, Alabama or South Carolina… but Washington State?

    Not surprised at all.

    There are millions of Okies living on the west coast. Okie is a generic term for migrants from the dust bowl and other places near there during the depression. Of course, most of the ones today aren’t migrants, they are their kids and grandkids.

    A lot of them settled out in rural areas in groups. A town near my former home is one. A lot of them speak English with a low class accent that is hard to understand. They aren’t real big on skooling and some of them are illiterate.

    This doesn’t mean these kids are descendants of the Grapes of Wrath crowd though. There are idiots everywhere.

  14. jnorris says

    Wearing the Confederate flag around ones neck like a caveat is disrespecting the Tea Party flag.

    To colnago80 @ #2: the biggest difference is the VC actually won.

  15. dingojack says

    jnorris – you know they say caveat emptor.*
    Dingo
    ——-
    * I think you were going for ‘cravat’ (still I can hardly lecture anyone about spelling). ;)

  16. cswella says

    @colnago80

    The Confederate flag is inextricably tied to one of the most shameful periods in american history, so it represents a nostalgia for the period when the south had slavery/segregation/etc. It’s a symbol of hate, and considering that that hatred is still acted upon today, it can be akin to threatening to minorities.

  17. drr1 says

    Since colnago80 doesn’t seem to want to give up —

    What’s the difference between a student today wearing a Confederate flag, a Viet Cong flag, a Nazi flag, or any other flag a student might choose?

    Constitutionally speaking: nothing. It’s protected speech. And please note, that’s not to say it cannot be regulated, OK? But it isn’t incitement, it isn’t fighting words, it is protected speech. That much, at least, is pretty simple, and it shouldn’t be terribly controversial, either, under contemporary speech doctrine.

  18. says

    Really? Does the Tinker decision really say a school can’t make and enforce a dress code? I’ll need a quote from the ruling, not just the standard libertarian bluff we always get in cases like this.

    The only problem I see here is one of consistency: if the kid who wore the gay-pride flag was in violation fo teh code, and was not suspended, then there’s a problem.

    And on a side note, let’s face it: the Confederate flag is the flag of a nation created ONLY for a single purpose: to maintain its people’s ability to enslave blacks. So yes, there’s a good bit of racism intrinsic in the history and meaning of that symbol, reglardless of what its wearers say.

  19. colnago80 says

    Re Raging Bee @ #27

    And on a side note, let’s face it: the Confederate flag is the flag of a nation created ONLY for a single purpose: to maintain its people’s ability to enslave blacks

    Not so, everybody knows that the Confederacy was created over coal mines in West Virginia.

  20. says

    Constitutionally speaking: nothing. It’s protected speech.

    What part of “high school” do the so-called free-speech-absolutists here not understand?

    I could not find a story about the Gay Pride flag being worn to the school–anybody else seen one? Otherwise it might seem that these two KKKlowns are just making shit up–a fine RepubliKKKlan virtue.

    Well, this wouldn’t be the first time Ed heard the “free speech” dogwhistle and let himself be fooled by a bigot’s lies.

  21. uzza says

    I spent most of my life in the Northwest without ever hearing of the “war of northern agression”, and the “white power flag” was never a thing, so for certain there were complaints from students and staff. Not surprised these jerks came from out in the sticks east of the lake, which tends to produce interesting cases like horse fucking and whatnot.

  22. raven says

    A town near my former home is one. A lot of them speak English with a low class accent that is hard to understand. They aren’t real big on skooling and some of them are illiterate.

    and

    Not surprised these jerks came from out in the sticks east of the lake, which tends to produce interesting cases like horse fucking and whatnot.

    Enumclaw?

    Hmmm. The town I’m thinking of isn’t all that far from Maple Valley, a place I’m not too familiar with.

    Sounds similar though. Guns, pickup trucks, truly massive amounts of alcohol, methamphetamine, low education, poverty, social problems and lots of fundies for the west coast.

  23. says

    “democommie – ‘cept when it didn’t. As I pointed out above.
    Dingo”

    WTF?

    The photo of a funeral/memorial service for GERMAN nationals incinerated or otherwise killed in the Hindenberg disaster (I’m assuming that to be the case, since your photo “evidence” is not indicative of what was going on there) would, of course, require that there be an attempt by Nazi propagandists to push the “brand”. At the time of the disaster, in 1937, Nazi Germany and the U.S. were not at war and still had diplomatic relations.

    That photo is not a good one to use to indicate U.S. sentiment for Nazis in the 1930’s.

    Or were you talking about something else?

  24. says

    Raven:

    Is your list of KKKonservative values there @33 intended to be read like a label on a box of cereal. If so, does that mean the relative quantity of gunz outweighs that of pick-ups and the rest? Just askin’s all.{;>)

  25. says

    @35:

    Kevin, absolutely. What we CAN’T avoid is that these fucking jerks see “the whole “southern white rednecks” thing” as a positive influence in their lives.

  26. Abby Normal says

    I used to wear a Confederate flag patch on my jacket in middle school (Colorado in the 80’s). At the time I thought it stood for rebellion against tyranny, small government, and freedom. I figured there might be a few people who thought it had to do with racism. But I thought, fuck those ignorant fools. I was young and stupid, but that’s what I thought.

  27. says

    @lofgren:

    Cases of racism are often dismissed as a “oh it’s just the racist south” kind of thing. I see it time and again, and even in some of these posts in this topic. Racism is perhaps more overt in the rural communities, but it exists everywhere. Where it’s not overt, it’s just as damaging cause it usually results in structural or societal discrimination.

  28. Abby Normal says

    I should also mention I wore the flag largely in protest of President Reagan, his anti-minority policies being one of the many things I hated about him.

  29. oranje says

    I’m not surprised about Washington. I find it funny when places like that (or here in the UP of Michigan) people show it off and talk about how it’s all about heritage. But they don’t even know what a Waffle House is.

  30. John Pieret says

    What part of “high school” do the so-called free-speech-absolutists here not understand?

    Apparently the same part as the Supreme Court doesn’t understand:

    First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. This has been the unmistakable holding of this Court for almost 50 years.

    Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District involved high school and junior high school students.

    As to dress codes:

    The problem posed by the present case [black armbands to protest the Vietnam War] does not relate to regulation of the length of skirts or the type of clothing, to hair style, or deportment.

    In order for the State in the person of school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, it must be able to show that its action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint.

  31. dingojack says

    “Displaying a Nazi flag or “accessorizing” with one, at any time since about the mid-1930′s and specifically after WWII till at least the late 1950′s in the U.S. would earn the idiot doing so substantial public opprobrium if not a good ol’ fashioned MurKKKan asskickin’.”

    Care to re-state?

    Dingo
    ——–
    BTW I idn’t explain the image because I assumed most people here aren’t morons, and can actually use a search engine to find an image.

  32. says

    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat) “*sigh* Can we avoid the whole “southern white rednecks” thing?”
    Why? The Southern White Redneck has magnificent plumage. Unlike most other birds, for example, it’s the male that’s relatively drab, with short feathers in the front and party in the back, while the female has large, highly teased, feathers with both, oddly, having denim bodies. And who isn’t moved by the male’s call, “Skynyrd rules! Skynyrd rules!” or the female’s reply, “Eymsodrunk! Oh-mgod eymsodrunk!”?

    “There is racism in EVERY walk of life and EVERY city.”
    Sure, but most people don’t mark it with a flag.

  33. raven says

    If so, does that mean the relative quantity of gunz outweighs that of pick-ups and the rest? Just askin’s all.{;>)

    LOL.

    Hard to say. Guns and pickup trucks were considered necessities of life.

    What I remember most about growing up in the north was how saturated life was with…alcohol. Heavy drinking was considered normal and just something you did as much as possible.

    I would hope it is different these days but it probably isn’t. The biggest change is how much methamphetamine was added to the mix.

  34. says

    Finally, an actual quote I can respond to…

    In order for the State in the person of school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, it must be able to show that its action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint.

    And in this case, there is more than the “desire to avoid discomfort.” First, wearing a blatantly racist symbol to a school has the potential effect of making students (and staff) in the targeted group feel less than welcome, less than equal, and less secure on school grounds than people in non-targeted groups; and that, in turn, means that people in the targeted group do not really enjoy equal protection of the laws when they’re at school. If students are REQUIRED to be at school, then the school is required to take reasonable measures to ensure that no subgroup is made to feel like they have less of a place there than the rest. A school is obligated to accomodate all students (and all employees for that matter) as equally as they can; and overt expressions of bigotry or hostility interfere with that mission (at least when they’re sported by large numbers of students). Schools are there to educate, and kids who are ostracised or otherized don’t learn as well as kids who aren’t.

    Second, it is a KNOWN FACT that the Confederate flag is seen by a significant number of Americans as a purely racist symbol; and it is consistent with a school’s educational mission to remind students of this FACT and require them to respond appropriately.

  35. says

    Speaking as someone who grew up in the deep south in a state where the Confederate flag controversy became front and center, I can say that most people who wear it or fly it aren’t being consciously racist. They regard it as a signifier of regional identity, not too different from wearing the logo of one’s favorite sports team. They just can’t make the connection between what actually happened in the post-Reconstruction South, with white “redeemers” terrorizing blacks and literally overthrowing elected governments, and nostalgia for the Good Ole Days back when everything was the way it was supposed to be. Chances are these kids don’t know anything about that stuff, but even the ones who do have convinced themselves that white supremacy was kind of an unfortunate quirk of the Old South, as opposed to being the very essence of its culture.

  36. says

    OT: Speaking of goofballs, a banner ad reads “Send Steve Lonegan to the Senate”. For those who don’t live in NJ, Lonegan was a Tea Party loon long before the TP itself. So, it’s very important for NJers to go vote TODAY in the special election! There are many non-Lonegan candidates to choose from, but since the Democratic candidate, one Cory Booker, has the best chance, that would be my recommendation. Now go do your duty!

  37. uzza says

    they don’t even know what a Waffle House is.

    LOL! Never heard of one till I moved down here. Had never been in a Walmart either.

  38. John Pieret says

    I’m not quite sure how “making students (and staff) in the targeted group feel less than welcome” is different than “discomfort.”

    at least when they’re sported by large numbers of students

    The court did allow that the situation would be different if there was “aggressive, disruptive action or even group demonstrations”.

    the Confederate flag is seen by a significant number of Americans as a purely racist symbol

    A significant number of Americans consider the rainbow flag as a purely anti-Christian symbol. I don’t know that the story that some other student wore the rainbow flag is true, but if the school can ban one, it can ban the other.

  39. colnago80 says

    Re cswella @ #46

    Apparently, you weren’t around last month when a since banned commenter, Don Williams, proclaimed this theory. This was a private snark between Bee and myself as we had much fun before ole Don was banned at his expense. Of course, the notion is ludicrous but ole Don was a random conspiracy generator and this was one of his funniest.

  40. says

    @43:

    “What part of “high school” do the so-called free-speech-absolutists here not understand?

    Apparently the same part as the Supreme Court doesn’t understand:”

    School dress codes are an acknowledged fact of life–even in public schools. Where a student’s right to hold and espouse views contrary, and abhorrent, to the majority is protected, their right to engage in deliberately provocative behavior in school IS subject to local school regulation–so long as the regulation is not unconstitutional. Thousands of U.S. schools have regulations concerning student dress and behavior. This is not a case of the school silencing the students; it is a case of the students being told that they cannot engage in political theater or other non-school related events during school hours.

    @51:

    “They just can’t make the connection between what actually happened in the post-Reconstruction South”

    Arguable as to whether that’s true. What is not arguable is that when some shitheads like these provide a “teaching moment” they should be “schooled”, even if it means suspending them from school. That people who actually live in the South can’t “make the connection” is indicative of adamantine indignorance or sub-moronic mental acuity.

    @44:

    ““Displaying a Nazi flag or “accessorizing” with one, at any time since about the mid-1930′s and specifically after WWII till at least the late 1950′s in the U.S. would earn the idiot doing so substantial public opprobrium if not a good ol’ fashioned MurKKKan asskickin’.”

    Care to re-state?”

    Sure, just as soon as you point out where the comment contains some error or lapse of logic.

    “BTW I didn’t explain the image…”

    An understatement.

    “…because I assumed most people here aren’t morons, and can actually use a search engine to find an image.”

    Finding the image was no problem, finding any information about it sure was, though.

    The link to the photo contains no information about when and where or under what circumstances it was taken. The photograph contains 3 U.S. flags and at least one Nazi flag. It does nothing to indicate that U.S. officials or citizens were even present at the event. Tell me where you found it and I’ll run it down for you.

    Your using the photo to bolster your comment (and poke colnago80 in the eye) is your business. You’re wrong to equate the photo with implicit or explicit support by U.S. citizens or officials with the murderous regime that the Nazis were known to be running earlier than 1937. They had already passed laws that were anti-Semitic. Yeah, for a substantial fractions of U.S. citizens had “man crushes” on Hitler, Himmler and other Nazis–because of their anti-Semitism–but the majority were either anti-Nazi or too preoccupied with recovering from the Great Depression to spend time thinking about politics in Europe–to our eventual detriment.

    I haven’t insulted you, as yet, do you really want to go down that road?

  41. whheydt says

    Re: Colnago @ #6:

    My mother (born 1912) had a school teacher who was an American Nazi. Said teacher really like my mother, who she considered to be so very Aryan. Not too surprising…my mother was blond at that age and both her parents were immigrants from Denmark…

  42. John Pieret says

    it is a case of the students being told that they cannot engage in political theater or other non-school related events during school hours.

    Political theater was exactly what the students in Tinker were doing and their right to do so, “divorced from actually or potentially disruptive conduct by those participating in it, is protected speech, according to the Supreme Court.

  43. says

    I’m not quite sure how “making students (and staff) in the targeted group feel less than welcome” is different than “discomfort.”

    The latter is a way of trying to make the former look acceptable.

    A significant number of Americans consider the rainbow flag as a purely anti-Christian symbol.

    The rainbow flag has nowhere near the historical baggage as the Confederate flag. Stop trying to pretend a reasonable person can’t tell the difference — it only makes you look unreasonable. It also makes you look like a bigots’ apologist, which too many “free-speech absolutists” seem prone to do.

  44. abb3w says

    In most schools, Ed Brayton would be spot on. Barring a history of disruptions from students display or wearing of Confederate flags that “intrudes upon the work of the schools”, this would be merely imbecilic and morally reprehensible — but still legally protected free speech.

    However… his analysis here is wrong, because in 1994 this school district had exactly that; which thus gives a critical differentiation from the SCOTUS analysis and consequent protection in Tinker, and puts it solidly into the allowable restriction zone that Morse v Frederick (though overbroadly) recognized. Even Stevens, Souter, and Ginsberg’s dissent in MvF acknowledged that (as a lower court put it) “regulation of student speech is generally permissible only when the speech would substantially disrupt or interfere with the work of the school or the rights of other students“, which “requires a specific and significant fear of disruption, not just some remote apprehension of disturbance“.

    The history of disruptive incidents provides precisely the required specific and significant fear, and makes it far less kin to a free speech case, and far more kin to a “hostile environment” harassment case — where again it is legally accepted for speech to have limits. True, it’s been almost 20 years, which may raise the question of whether the fear is justifiably current or has now become too remote. On the other hand, that’s just about the right length of time for the current batch of imbiciles to be children of the last round of bigots. Someone should track down Floyd Brazier, and ask him who were in the last round of culprits.

    There might still be room to argue over whether there could possibly be a less restrictive means to prevent the disruptions. But so far, no-one seems to be arguing that.

  45. imnotandrei says

    I admit I am biased in favor of the “More speech” — and feel that certain sorts of provocative behavior are best met with provocative responses. But much of that has to do with my history.

    I went to a private high school, with a strict dress code — but that did not stop some people from showing up wearing scarves (permitted, when the weather was cool enough) with the Confederate flag on them. Mind you, this was a massively white school — I remember my year (class of 60 boys) had 3 minority students.

    I did not get suspended for getting swung on when I asked them why they were identifying themselves with traitors and losers, despite their claims that I had provoked them.

  46. abb3w says

    Sigh; comment in moderation. Link free version meanwhile: Ed and everyone commenting have missed something.

  47. abb3w says

    Checking, Raging Bee @48ish analysis looks to have come closest, but still missed one critical datum.

  48. says

    So can these students break down and enumerate the factors of Southern Culture that they take pride in? What ideals and commonalities are shared by the population living in the southern region of the US do they identify with? How does the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia encompass these?
    There will be a test in the morning.

  49. says

    @60:

    Thank you, abb3w. I wish that the news story that Ed linked to in his OP had at least hinted that there had been a problem with exactly the same sort of thing 20 years ago.

    The absolutists will still say that it’s wrong to deny the Hitler Jugend their 1st Amendment rights.

  50. abb3w says

    Checking the original article Ed linked, I’ll also note that the offenders don’t want their last names used. I wonder if it’s because that name might be recognized by those familiar with the last incident?

    A few more pokes at Google suggests that Floyd Brazier (the student who complained in the press about the bigots back in 1994) spent some time working at the University of Louisville as a track coach, is now going by “Justice Calo Reign“, and still lives within an hour’s drive.

  51. Infophile says

    @59 Raging Bee:

    As I see it, the issue here isn’t so much a question of the “reasonable person” standard (if the US government were filled with reasonable people, there would still be a US government), but a question of what the government should have the power to regulate. The Bill of Rights puts limits on the government’s power, including a limit on the power to interfere with free speech. So, the question we should be asking is: Should the government be able to interfere with speech in X circumstance?

    In this case, the circumstance is students wearing a flag that many see as representing racism. Let’s say this goes to the Supreme Court, and they declare that the government has the right to ban speech in schools which can be seen as promoting racism (Hell, they’ve already banned pro-drugs speech in schools, so it’s not far-fetched). It seems harmless. Racism is bad, right? But the point of John Pieret’s comment is that the people deciding these matters will not always be reasonable. Many judges are elected, and many unreasonable people get elected. So, it’s quite possible a slightly-unreasonable judge would see this precedent and ban a symbol for the Nation of Islam as being racist. Or a very unreasonable judge might ban any expression in support of minority rights as racism (how often do you see that being equated to anti-white racism?).

    Sure, the Supreme Court could split hairs here and create a tangle precedent that bans certain arguably-racist speech and allows other arguably-racist speech, depending on how convincing the argument is for the speech being racist. But then this means that the law loses its predictability. Public schools won’t know in any given case whether or not they’re allowed to ban X article of clothing which they think might cause a disruption, because it comes down to how convincing the Supreme Court would find the argument. People would have to spend time and money fighting their way through the court system to get to say things which others have deemed racist (I bet you at least one commenter in this thread would accuse me of anti-semitism if I criticized the actions of Israel’s military, and is anyone arguing that that shouldn’t be protected speech).

    It’s not simple though. Where does free speech turn into harassment or bullying? And is that line drawn in a different place when the government mandates that two people go to the same school for public education? Wearing a confederate flag on your private time is one thing, but at a school where someone in your class can’t avoid you, it’s another. I think it’s probably best to put in harassment/bullying exceptions for free speech, and schools do require some special handling in that area since students are required to be there, but they should still be content-neutral, as much as possible.

  52. says

    But the point of John Pieret’s comment is that the people deciding these matters will not always be reasonable.

    “These matters” still have to be decided; and there’s no person or institution who can always be counted on to be perfect — it’s humans everywhere you look. If “people won’t always be reasonable” is a valid argument against a ruling in this case, why is it not a valid argument against ANY decision in ANY case?

  53. John Pieret says

    If “people won’t always be reasonable” is a valid argument against a ruling in this case, why is it not a valid argument against ANY decision in ANY case?

    But, in this case, it is the government that is exercising its power to punish (suspensions from mandatory schooling are considered punishment) people for what is, on its face, exercising a right to free speech and expression. The fact that people, even a majority of people, don’t like the speech doesn’t mean the government should be able to punish those speakers.

    Now, while the previous problem with confederate flags can certainly be considered in any case coming out of this, a nearly twenty year old incident, by itself, may not justify the school’s actions in this case. There would probably have to be some history of continuing racial incidents (especially on the part of these two geniuses) in order for this incident to rise to the level of “actually or potentially disruptive conduct.”

  54. freemage says

    abb3w: Well done! That brought everything into nice focus, and showed where the line really is. For this community, that particular flag is, functionally, a gang symbol–something the courts have ruled for a long time can be limited by schools. That brings it from “irritating and distressing” to “actively disruptive”.

    If it had been the former case, honestly, I’d say the school didn’t have a leg to stand on. OTOH, I would’ve encouraged the teachers to use this as an opportunity to teach their students about the time a bunch of racist, evil men, convinced of their own superiority on the basis of nothing more than their own thuggery, brought a saber to a cannon-fight and got their collective asses handed to them by a hick lawyer, a drunkard and a madman (that would be Lincoln, Grant and Sherman). I’d then urge them to go on, at length, about how the treasonous losers of that fight proceeded to use the flag as a symbol of their ongoing bitterness, unable to move on and become decent human beings.

  55. says

    @74:

    I’d be all for that option, Freemage, if I thought it would be implemented.

    As it is. If the racist idiots want to wear their little earrings? whatev. The flags ARE seen as a racist symbol by many and failing to take a stand will be seen, often and by many, in such situations to be tacit approval.

  56. abb3w says

    @71, Infofile

    In this case, the circumstance is students wearing a flag that many see as representing racism.

    …in a school which has had a history of racist expression in association with physical harassment. That history is a major component of the circumstance. It’s not racism in the abstract; it’s particular racism, associated with particular previous incidents, with particular harms up to and including stalking and assault.

    In other schools without that history (or something comparable), it would be a much-less clear cut answer. In this particular case? This is clearly within the scope of US legal precedent.

    @71, Infofile

    Where does free speech turn into harassment or bullying?

    Harassment in schools is probably somewhat similar to the Harris v Forklift ruling on a hostile workplace environment — which does not appear to include a simple yes-or-no test. The majority favored a vague “reasonable person” viewing the environment as hostile; Scalia suggested a more conservative standard of whether the expressive conduct interferes with someone else’s performance would be clearer (though I would consider it likely too narrow a protection). Of course, voluntary employment in commerce and compulsory educational attendence are somewhat different arenas; but that seems likely to provide some existing principles to start from.

    Contrariwise, no, it’s not simple; but not matter what, there will always be a few gray area cases where it’s impossible to guess in advance how the courts will rule. That’s inherently intrinsic to the nature of the class of decision problems.

    Nohow, I’m pretty sure that in a workplace, a co-worker wearing a confederate flag T-shirt would be taken as a factor contributing to a racially charged and hostile environment.

  57. lofgren says

    Personally I think that it’s reasonable for a school to have a dress code, up to and including uniforms, and that this does not constitute an infringement of free speech as long as it is enforced fairly.

    However, I would say that calling an event that occurred in 1993 a ” history of disruptive incidents” is a wee bit of a stretch in an institution where most people spend only about 4 years at a time. I honestly couldn’t give a shit about things that happened in my high school 20 years before I got there (or even 16, at a minimum). Unless some kid died horribly and still haunts the school to this day, preferably preying on girls who insist on keeping their tops on during pre-show rituals, I really couldn’t be bothered. I imagine the kids who currently go to my school feel about the same way.

  58. Infophile says

    @76 ab33w:

    The history in question was 19 years ago, when neither of the students in question here was born, most likely. What would you consider a reasonable time limit for such a history? I’d give it 5 years at most. Past that we have to ask how long a government can use a single incident to continually curtail constitutionally protected liberties. Now, if one of these students is related to a student involved in that past incident, then that would make the link between these incidents more plausible, but we don’t know that at this point.

  59. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    …isn’t walking around with a flag wrapped around your neck a legitimate safety hazard, anyway?

  60. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    A significant number of Americans consider the rainbow flag as a purely anti-Christian symbol.

    Yes, but they’re wrong. How far up your ass does your head have to be to consider the truth of an argument’s premises irrelevant?

  61. uzza says

    @ 77 & 78
    All one has to do is look at the comments at the original link to see that a) it’s not just one incident, it’s an ongoing problem, and 2) racism is no foreigner to the local area.

    Maple Valley is an eastern outskirt of blue collar Renton and is Redneck Central. It’s far enough from the big city, and property is cheap enough, to do whatever you want, and as such a logical place to attract white power types and their ilk. This is like a mini version of the problems in Leith, ND, although the big organized groups won’t want to be so near Seattle. It’s been this way for a long time.

  62. says

    The fact that people, even a majority of people, don’t like the speech doesn’t mean the government should be able to punish those speakers.

    Does this mean the government should not be able to punish kids for violating either a dress code or a reasonable degree of interpersonal manners? By your logic, The fact that people, even a majority of people, don’t like being called kikes, wops, niggers, whatever, doesn’t mean the government should be able to punish the name-callers. That is, “on its face” as you so pretentiously say, an exercise in free speech, right?

    Excuse me while I belabor the obvious: schools (public and private) don’t just teach about math, science, literature, etc.; part of a school’s educational mission is teaching kids how to behave toward one another. And if that includes teaching kids not to shout racial epithets in each other’s faces, then by the same token, it should also include teaching kids not to wear symbols that are widely considered equally insulting or racist, like the swastika, the Confederate flag, etc. Given the well-known history of both symbols, it’s perfectly appropriate for a school to forbid them on its premises.

  63. says

    Uzza and Raven nailed it.

    And abb3w filled in the history of that particular school district.

    I shouldn’t leave out Raging Bee @48 — excellent point, and I’ve been in the position of trying to explain precisely this, that the Confederate Flag carries a load of baggage, and is not only seen as a racist symbol, but frequently used as one.

    Anyway, taking it all into consideration, I’m coming down on the side of the school.

  64. abb3w says

    @77ish, lofgren

    However, I would say that calling an event that occurred in 1993 a ” history of disruptive incidents” is a wee bit of a stretch in an institution where most people spend only about 4 years at a time.

    Except, as the articles I linked indicate, it was not a single event. It was at least three separate incidents, each sufficiently significant for administrative action, and involving multiple offenders. That’s strongly suggesting at least a problematic subculture. And, as uzza noted, there’s outside evidence it’s persistent.

    @78ish, Infophile

    What would you consider a reasonable time limit for such a history? I’d give it 5 years at most.

    The ruling in Shelby v Holder might suggest your view could have some sympathy on the bench of the Supreme Court. Personally, I suspect two generations would be about right. And it sounds like there were enough students at least peripherally involved in the last generation’s incidents to give pretty good odds the last name is going to be recognized.

  65. lofgren says

    Except, as the articles I linked indicate, it was not a single event. It was at least three separate incidents, each sufficiently significant for administrative action, and involving multiple offenders.

    And all 20 years ago, so still irrelevant.

  66. lofgren says

    All one has to do is look at the comments at the original link to see that a) it’s not just one incident, it’s an ongoing problem,

    I’m not about to sit here and read all 824 comments but in the batch I looked at I didn’t see any references to additional incidents, certainly nothing that would demonstrate an unbroken chain of related incidents going back 20 years. Presumably if the policy is being enforced justly, these additional incidents resulted in similar punishments.

    and 2) racism is no foreigner to the local area.

    Racism?!! Here in the United States of America??? Say it ain’t so!!! I don’t think anybody contends that there’s no racism here. The question is what the government can and should do about it, specifically does that include banning certain symbols.

    As a general rule I think banning symbols is a mistake, but I see public school as a pretty special case. Enforcing dress codes or uniforms is a necessary tool for the government to accomplish the task set before it, which is educating these kids. As Raging Bee said, that means teaching them how to get along with each other. I don’t really see much risk of the dress codes enforced by a school principal spreading and becoming some sweeping effort by the government to silence dissent in the media or something like that.

    (That said, part of teaching these kids to get along is also teaching them how to express themselves in a diverse world. Every community will need to find the right balance that works for its schools. But those skills can be taught even in a school that requires uniforms. Making kids take off some flag capes, specifically a flag of a country whose sole purpose on this Earth was to protect the right of some people to own other people, isn’t even close the line.)

  67. John Pieret says

    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) @ 80:

    Yes, but they’re wrong. How far up your ass does your head have to be to consider the truth of an argument’s premises irrelevant?

    But the constitutional problem is how do we legally deal with the actions of a local majority with its collective head up their asses? This is the nature of the Bill of Rights … it is a shield against the stupidity/bias of the majority, not a “truth” determining exercise … because, of course, “truth” depends on who is “determining” it.

    Bee @ 82:

    That is, “on its face” as you so pretentiously say, an exercise in free speech, right?

    “On its face” is a common legal phrase that simply means that ‘without other complications.’ If we can get back to substantive arguments … or am I being pretentious again?

    Excuse me while I belabor the obvious: schools (public and private) don’t just teach about math, science, literature, etc.; part of a school’s educational mission is teaching kids how to behave toward one another. And if that includes teaching kids not to shout racial epithets in each other’s faces, then by the same token, it should also include teaching kids not to wear symbols that are widely considered equally insulting or racist, like the swastika, the Confederate flag, etc. Given the well-known history of both symbols, it’s perfectly appropriate for a school to forbid them on its premises.

    Again, this is about government, not some idealized “school” as you’d like them to be. What if the local community thinks wearing symbols that are “widely considered equally insulting or racist” is perfectly fine but wearing a rainbow symbol isn’t and that majority uses the local school board to enforce that “judgment”? The question isn’t what the best school policy is (on that we’d probably agree), it’s what can the individual student legally use to protect his/her rights from government punishment. Unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, in order to protect the viewpoints we like, we have to legally protect the ones we don’t like.

  68. says

    Again, this is about government, not some idealized “school” as you’d like them to be.

    Excuse me, fool, but I’m talking about a REAL school serving REAL students. The original article was not a work of fiction. YOU are the one blathering about “government” as an abstract boogeyman.

    What if the local community thinks wearing symbols that are “widely considered equally insulting or racist” is perfectly fine but wearing a rainbow symbol isn’t and that majority uses the local school board to enforce that “judgment”?

    We can play stupid “what-if” games like this forever. “OMG what if the local community passed a bad law? That would be horrible, so let’s not let them pass any laws at all!” You need to grow up, stop raving about potential boogeymen, and face that fact that certain decisions need to be made whether or not you or I imagine a wrong decision. If one faction pushes a bad law, there’s something called the “democratic process” that the rest of us can use to stop it. You must have heard of it.

    The question isn’t what the best school policy is…

    That’s the problem with people like you: you don’t give a shit about doing the right thing; you only care about second-guessing other people’s decisions and telling them how they’re wrong without taking any responsibility for actual results.

    Unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, in order to protect the viewpoints we like, we have to legally protect the ones we don’t like.

    “Protecting viewpoints we don’t like” does not include allowing schools to be poisoned with bigotry; nor does it mean refusing to enforce basic rules of dress and behavior in schools.

  69. abb3w says

    @85, Iofgren

    And all 20 years ago, so still irrelevant.

    The multiple incidents establish the existence at that time of a (sub)cultural pattern, which can easily persist for 20 years of more. Opposition to interracial marriage, for example, is still concentrated in the Derp South, more than 40 years after Virginia v Loving.

    It’s possible to argue that it is insufficient to support this abrogation of freedom of expression; to argue that this evidence is irrelevant suggests naivete, folly, or willful blindness.

    @86, Iofgren

    I’m not about to sit here and read all 824 comments but in the batch I looked at I didn’t see any references to additional incidents

    I believe the implication was that the comments from locals themselves indicate that the level of racial tensions are sufficiently charged to itself support assertions of an ongoing local pattern of racial hostility.

    @86, Iofgren

    Enforcing dress codes or uniforms is a necessary tool for the government to accomplish the task set before it, which is educating these kids.

    And in most cases, I would agree. Most cases, however, are not schools which had outbreaks of racial hostilities a mere 20 years ago, rather than a sollid two to three generations back in the era of Alexander v Holmes or in Brown v Board.

    @87, John Pieret

    What if the local community thinks wearing symbols that are “widely considered equally insulting or racist” is perfectly fine but wearing a rainbow symbol isn’t and that majority uses the local school board to enforce that “judgment”?

    If they can show the rainbow symbol was historically associated with a group of incidents of stalking and assault, at that point the hurdle of having “specific and significant fear of disruption, not just some remote apprehension of disturbance” has been passed.

    As I noted, however, absent such particular history, then a school board seems likely to be overstepping the lawful scope of its authority, whether acting to ban a rainbow flag, a confederate flag, or even the Nazi flag.

  70. John Pieret says

    We can play stupid “what-if” games like this forever.

    What do you think the law is about, especially a Constitution? They are about ‘what if’ a government does something to harm someone’s rights.

    If one faction pushes a bad law, there’s something called the “democratic process” that the rest of us can use to stop it.

    So, it is perfectly fine to you if the “democratic process,” unhindered by a constitution, decides what rights gays, blacks, Latinos, etc. have in, for example, Alabama? You may have heard of the phrase “the tyranny of the majority.” That’s what our Constitution was democratically adopted to prevent. You seem to assume that your views are the majority view everywhere in America. Sadly, they’re not and you only have to listen to all the shit spouted at the Value Voters Summit last weekend to know it. And the only thing that stands between individual human rights and people like that is our Constitution.

    you don’t give a shit about doing the right thing

    What I care about is how we stop people who think “the right thing” is to oppress other people from doing so. If you have a better solution than our Constitution, propose it and get the “democratic process” to adopt it everywhere. Good luck!

    you only care about second-guessing other people’s decisions

    Yeah, I want to second guess the prior Jim Crow laws and the current voter suppression laws. Oh, wait … they were enacted by the “democratic process,” weren’t they? I guess the people affected are shit out of luck because the Constitution can’t help them.

    Either the Bill of Rights applies to everyone, whether or not we like them, or it applies to no one.

  71. lofgren says

    The multiple incidents establish the existence at that time of a (sub)cultural pattern, which can easily persist for 20 years of more.

    You are so far from establishing a continuity between these incidents that bringing up the earlier incidents is pointless, unless the “subcultural” pattern you are talking about is the subcultural history of the flag being used as a symbol of racism in this country for over 200 years – in which case, again, why bring up the earlier incident? Just because something is plausible doesn’t give the school universal right to act as if it is true indefinitely.

    I believe the implication was that the comments from locals themselves indicate that the level of racial tensions are sufficiently charged to itself support assertions of an ongoing local pattern of racial hostility.

    Which is bullshit. You can’t punish these kids because some adults (from all over the country, not just locals, since this is the internet) say stupid shit online. You can’t make their punishment more severe because you think their parents might be racists too. You punish the act that the kid committed. If you start punishing kids for opinions that their parents hold or the community at large holds, you teach them a very bad lesson.

    And in most cases, I would agree.

    I’m assuming you mean you would disagree.

    Most cases, however, are not schools which had outbreaks of racial hostilities a mere 20 years ago, rather than a sollid two to three generations back in the era of Alexander v Holmes or in Brown v Board.

    I’ll bet you that if we look at the twenty year period from 1993 to 2013, we can find at least three incidents of “racial hostility” in most interracial schools in this country. Frankly, the opposite, that most schools have had no racial strife for the past 20 years, seems positively utopian. We’re talking about kids experimenting with their identities, including racial identities. Some of them are going to try on racist ideologies to see how they feel. Over two decades and thousands of students, finding three who did so and got in trouble for it should be no problem whatsoever. We could also probably find some members of those kids’ communities who wrote racist things on the internet or racist letters to the paper. If that is your criteria for a special case, most schools are special cases. Unless you can establish a definitive connection between this incident and the earlier ones, it’s the very definition of a fishing expedition.

    You say that a “mere” 20 years ago means that the prior incident created a patter, but that hostilities in 1969 would not be a pattern. So somewhere between 20 years ago and 44 years ago, we stop assuming a pattern. Can you tell me the exact year? This was also Infophile’s question. I assume that you have an exact year in mind, because otherwise, again, fishing expedition.

  72. says

    So, it is perfectly fine to you if the “democratic process,” unhindered by a constitution, decides what rights gays, blacks, Latinos, etc. have in, for example, Alabama?

    I never said any such thing. You really need to stop being so self-righteous and emotional and start reading for comprehension.

    What I care about is how we stop people who think “the right thing” is to oppress other people from doing so.

    Enforcing a dress code, and telling kids they can’t wear racist symbols in schools, is “oppression?” Like most other libertarians, you sound like me when I was eight years old, calling my mom a “slave-driver” when she told me to clean up my room. Grow the fuck up and read a newspaper (and a few history books) so you’ll know what “oppression” really is.

    Yeah, I want to second guess the prior Jim Crow laws and the current voter suppression laws.

    Who the FUCK said anything about those laws? Are you really trying to equate a dress code with apartheid? Fuck off to bed.

  73. says

    You can’t punish these kids because some adults (from all over the country, not just locals, since this is the internet) say stupid shit online.

    That’s not why they’re being punished, and you know it. They’re being punished for violating their school’s dress code, and basic manners.

  74. says

    Frankly, the opposite, that most schools have had no racial strife for the past 20 years, seems positively utopian.

    So less racial strife means schools have no right to tell kids they can’t display insulting racist symbols in school? I guess, by the same token, schools can’t penalize kids for shouting racial epithets at each other either, right?

    The presence or absence of incidents at a specific school is irrelevant here. If a particular symbol or word is widely held to be insulting or racist, then a school is perfectly within its rights to forbid said symbol or word on its turf. In fact, the school is OBLIGATED to do so , as part of its educational mission to encourage good behavior and minimize verbal bullying. Schools don’t need recent incidents to keep on re-justifying basic rules of behavior every fucking year.

  75. lofgren says

    That’s not why they’re being punished, and you know it.

    I am addressing a specific claim made by abb3w and uzza. Is it really too much to ask that you read the comments I am replying to before attacking me?

    So less racial strife means schools have no right to tell kids they can’t display insulting racist symbols in school? I guess, by the same token, schools can’t penalize kids for shouting racial epithets at each other either, right?

    Or hell, even my own comment. The only time I have referenced you in this thread it was to agree with you. Although as usual even when you make a halfway decent point you then proceed to display those familiar epic levels of dumbassery that make me second guess my own opinion. So, thanks, I guess?

  76. John Pieret says

    You really need to stop being so self-righteous and emotional

    Hee! It wasn’t me calling other people names, like “fool”!

    But good, you agree that the “democratic process,” is insufficient to protect the human rights of people (that was the point of my bringing up Jim Crow laws, etc.). So we do need a Constitution and Bill of Rights … right?

    Enforcing a dress code, and telling kids they can’t wear racist symbols in schools, is “oppression?”

    A “dress code” instituted by government that is only supposed to suppess a point of view that you don’t like is “oppression” because others may attempt to use government to suppess a point of view that they don’t like. Again, either the Bill of Rights protects other people’s opinions as much as it protects your opinions, or it doesn’t exist at all. (As I noted before. the facts on the ground, such as ongoing racial tensions and use of the confederate flag as part of that, might well change the constitutional analysis, but simply using the government to punish the racist opinions of some people is as bad as using the government to punish the pro-gay opinions of other people.)

    Like most other libertarians …

    Mind reading now? I am about as far from a libertarian as possible. Aren’t we supposed to not be self-righteous and emotional?

    I am a lawyer and, therefore, unsurprisingly, believe in the rule of law. For all its pecularities and faults, I admire the US Constitution. I think it was an excellent attempt at setting up a truly free society, even though it failed in that ideal, as have all such attempts. However, it is still, as Madison said, a “parchment barrier” against tyranny. Which means we have to defend it and extend it vigorously, perhaps most importantly when it involves people whose positions we don’t like. We protect other people’s rights in order to protect our own!

  77. lofgren says

    The presence or absence of incidents at a specific school is irrelevant here.

    And just to be 100% clear, yes, that is exactly my point.

  78. uzza says

    I’m not about to sit here and read all 824 comments but in the batch I looked at I didn’t see any references to additional incidents

    oh FFS. 184 comments, second one:

    Suzanne B

    I have a child who attends this H.S. Just last week before I heard about any of this he overheard hate-speech at school and witnessed some of these thugs waving their confederate flag out of their truck window in the direction of black students. Some of these thugs also have loud speakers connected to their cb radios and I have experienced them first-hand driving around in their pick-up calling black kids the N-word as they passed. I hope Tahoma continues to take this kind of stuff seriously. These kids are hiding behind free speech and acting like they are southern folk trying to show their pride. Glad the administrators saw through it and realized this was much more. The racial tension at this school is real.

    There are more like that. These are only hearsay, but based on my living near there for ten years they ring true. I’ve seen similar shit out there.

  79. uzza says

    aw shit. I buggered that up. comment should’ve been a quote, last two sentences were me. It’s 824 comments, that’s still the second one. link
    I pulled that at Oct 11, 2013 at 10:09 AM PDT, after the above comments were made.

  80. lofgren says

    oh FFS. 184 comments,

    One of us needs glasses. I just double checked and it still looks like it says 824 to me.

    There are more like that. These are only hearsay, but based on my living near there for ten years they ring true.

    Which have nothing to say about dress codes, at least as far as I have seen. And again none of them reference the incident 20 years ago.

    Again, I don’t disagree that the school made the right decision. I disagree specifically with the argument that the dress code can be justified on the basis of the behavior of a couple of kids 20 years ago. It’s fuzzy logic in the extreme, at least until abb3w can specify exactly how far back we go and exactly what constitutes a prior incident and why.

    Your point seems more related to my point that it is a little absurd to look to a prior incident at this school 20 years ago for justification when there are 200 years of history of the flag the whole country over. It’s as if a kid showed up dressed as a Klansman and abb3w said “Well I think the school is justified in punishing this because my cousin once dressed as a ghost for Halloween and he is also racist.”

  81. says

    A “dress code” instituted by government that is only supposed to suppess a point of view that you don’t like is “oppression” because others may attempt to use government to suppess a point of view that they don’t like.

    A policy is “oppression” because some other policy would be oppression? That’s just fucking ridiculous.

    Again, either the Bill of Rights protects other people’s opinions as much as it protects your opinions, or it doesn’t exist at all.

    Really? My high school had rules against racist name-calling nearly FORTY YEARS AGO, and the Bill of Rights hasn’t ceased to exist yet.

    A “dress code” instituted by government that is only supposed to suppess a point of view that you don’t like is “oppression” because others may attempt to use government to suppess a point of view that they don’t like.

    This is not about “points of view,” this is about PERSONAL CONDUCT and PROTECTING KIDS FROM OVERT BIGOTRY AND HOSTILITY WHERE THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE LEARNING THINGS. If you can’t see the difference, despite several reminders from multiple commenters and the OP, then for all practical purposes, you’re blind.

    We protect other people’s rights in order to protect our own!

    Note your own use of the plural “rights,” not one single right to the exclusion of all others. In this case, the school is protecting all students’ right to be free of bigoted speech in places where they’re a captive audience; and that’s how they’re protecting our own rights. No one is being “oppressed” or losing freedom of speech here — they’re all perfectly free to wave their racist stupidity in each other’s faces outside of school.

  82. John Pieret says

    A policy is “oppression” because some other policy would be oppression? That’s just fucking ridiculous.

    Ah, I see. You are incapable of oppressing anyone! You and you alone determine what is oppressive? So we should allow you to do whatever you like and use government to punish anyone you don’t like. Uh, huh. Now imagine the Value Voters claiming the same “right” … This is the damn point! The Constitution is supposed to prevent majorities from deciding what is “oppressive.”

    PERSONAL CONDUCT and PROTECTING KIDS FROM OVERT BIGOTRY AND HOSTILITY WHERE THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE LEARNING THINGS

    So, when the bigots say it’s about “PERSONAL CONDUCT” of gays and “PROTECTING KIDS FROM OVERT BIGOTRY AND HOSTILITY” by gays against Christians (as in suppressing Gay/Straight Clubs, which is not a hypothetical), you’re OK with that? If not, how do you legally distinguish it … other than shouting that you’re right and the other side is wrong … just as they are shouting the opposite? The Constitution, at least, presents a rational basis … both sides get their say but neither gets the imprimatur of government.

    the school is protecting all students’ right to be free of bigoted speech in places where they’re a captive audience

    Sorry, there’s no right to be free of bigotry, as much as I might wish differently, in schools or anywhere else … as long as it doesn’t involve violence, harassment or other criminal acts. Simply passively letting other people know that you are bigoted against them does not violate their rights. Nor is justification for punishing the bigoted person.

  83. says

    So, when the bigots say it’s about “PERSONAL CONDUCT” of gays and “PROTECTING KIDS FROM OVERT BIGOTRY AND HOSTILITY” by gays against Christians (as in suppressing Gay/Straight Clubs, which is not a hypothetical), you’re OK with that?

    No, and neither would any court in the USA.

    If not, how do you legally distinguish it …?

    By presenting evidence and making a coherent case.

    Sorry, there’s no right to be free of bigotry…

    Who but a bigot, or a bigot’s apologist, would say that? Your interpretation of the Constitution is pure bullshit, and, as usual, totally lacking in any grounding.

  84. abb3w says

    @91, lofgren:

    I’ll bet you that if we look at the twenty year period from 1993 to 2013, we can find at least three incidents of “racial hostility” in most interracial schools in this country.

    Three in twenty years? Likely.
    Three, at least one of which is potentially subject to criminal prosecution, within a single year of the twenty years? Rather less.

    @91, lofgren:

    You say that a “mere” 20 years ago means that the prior incident created a patter, but that hostilities in 1969 would not be a pattern.

    Incorrect.

    I’m saying that the cluster of incidents (at least three in the article I linked; I suspect others did not make that news piece) that year established the existence of a cultural pattern present in the area at that time; that my impression is that 20 years is generally not enough for such cultural patterns of racism to fade; but that I would not be surprised at them fading after 40 years. (I admit, I may be overly optimistic about that.)

    @91, lofgren:

    Can you tell me the exact year?

    Can you define what a “continuum fallacy” is?

    @94, Raging Bee:

    The presence or absence of incidents at a specific school is irrelevant here.

    Um… on this, I think I’d have to disagree. The presence of incidents (presuming they are also “significant”; EG, criminally prosecutable) renders “specific and significant fear of disruption, not just some remote apprehension of disturbance“, which is the tipping point when regulation of student speech is legally allowed.

    Now, you may be trying to make the case that it’s intrinsically harassing throughout the United States; but that seems a steep hill.

    @96, John Pieret

    I am a lawyer

    So, would you care to discuss the case law on workplace harassment, and contrast how the coercive nature of state-mandated education interacts with the free speech rights of harassers versus the duty of the state to protect minorities from the harms of harassment while acting in loco parentis? Bearing in mind, of course, that while you may be a lawyer, you are not MY lawyer, and thus not giving anyone here legal advice.

    @98, uzza

    second one:

    Yeeeeeaaaah. That sounds like it would not be hard to establish that there remains an on-going problem; and thus, that norms restricting symbolic expression of racism may be justified for the need to prevent violent expression and the empirical tendency of symbolic expression to be precursor to and diminish inhibition against rather less symbolic expression.

    @102, John Pieret

    Sorry, there’s no right to be free of bigotry, as much as I might wish differently, in schools or anywhere else … as long as it doesn’t involve violence, harassment or other criminal acts.

    However, you appear to be neglecting that expressive speech can itself constitute an act of harassment.

    It seems the wearing of a Confederate flag shirt and other expressive speech can itself in cases at least potentially constitute harassment. (As example, I could probably get myself fired-for-cause by wearing one into the diversity office — though I note employment involves different circumstances from being a student.) The question would seem to be, at what point can it be considered sufficiently likely to constitute harassment (and sufficiently significant as harassment) as to allow a categorical ban?

  85. lofgren says

    Three in twenty years? Likely.
    Three, at least one of which is potentially subject to criminal prosecution, within a single year of the twenty years? Rather less.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree. I suspect that most schools are lucky to go two years without three incidences of racial tension. I went to a liberal, affluent, suburban high school with a whole melange of diversity in the student body, and we had many such incidents. uzza said that another student “overhearing a racial slur” meant that there was an ongoing problem of racism at this school. I suspect most high schools call that “any day between Monday and Friday.”

    You say that a “mere” 20 years ago means that the prior incident created a patter, but that hostilities in 1969 would not be a pattern.

    Incorrect.

    I’m saying that the cluster of incidents (at least three in the article I linked; I suspect others did not make that news piece) that year established the existence of a cultural pattern present in the area at that time; that my impression is that 20 years is generally not enough for such cultural patterns of racism to fade; but that I would not be surprised at them fading after 40 years.

    Oh. So you’re not saying that an incident 20 years ago establishes a pattern. You’re saying it establishes a cultural pattern. Well that’s totally different then. I mean, adding the word “cultural” to something obviously makes it a completely different situation. Are you sure that I was merely incorrect and not “culturally incorrect?” I just want to be clear. Wouldn’t want any confusion over something like that.

    (I admit, I may be overly optimistic about that.)

    Time doesn’t seem to be defining factor to me. In some places, you could safely multiply that by 4 or 5. On the other hand we have observed communities healing even overt and violent racism within them at a rapid pace, albeit with significant effort. That’s why I keep challenging you to actually SHOW A CONNECTION, rather than saying things like “generally not enough” (Based on what evidence?) or “I would not be surprised” (Why not?).

    Can you define what a “continuum fallacy” is?

    It’s something that people say when somebody asks a question that they don’t have a good answer to, but they want to assert that they are correct anyway.

    But here’s the problem. I’m not asking you to specify a year because I don’t agree with your assertion that there is a pattern, or even a “cultural” pattern, of racism. On the contrary, I have no doubt whatsoever that there is a pattern of racism.

    I am asking because if you want to assert that prior incidents that occurred before the subjects of this article were even born establish a pattern simply by their proximity in time, then you had better have had a window of time in mind BEFORE you went looking for past events. If you didn’t have a specific window of time in mind, then it opens up the possibility that you would have rationalized almost ANY window of time as reasonable proximity to establish a pattern. If you had gone looking for previous incidents and found one 21 years ago, would you still have said that it is a pattern? Twenty-two? Twenty-three? Unless your experiment specified a cut off point, your conclusion is unreliable because it is too easily subject to post hoc rationalizing. And not just a time period. Did you have specific types of incidents in mind? Unless you can tell me exactly what you were looking for and how far back you think it is reasonable to look – and had those same criteria in mind when you started your search – your conclusions simply cannot be trusted. That’s what makes it fuzzy logic and that is what I disagree with.

    What’s weirdest about this is that for once I take a much more authoritarian view than even Raging Bee. In my opinion the school is perfectly justified having and enforcing a dress code, and even specifically banning the Confederate flag, whether or not a “subcultural of racism” exists, whether or not there were prior incidents, and whether or not somebody on the internet has established a completely arbitrary window of what does and doesn’t count as a sufficient window of time for “cultural patterns of racism” to fade. Teenagers are citizens on training wheels. Letting them walk around with Confederate flags is like putting them on a Harley and letting them try to jump over thirty cars through a flaming hoop. They have no clue what they are getting in to. If a kid wants to try being a daredevil on his own time, fine. But when they are on school time, part of the faculty’s job is to stop them from being complete dumbasses and getting themselves hurt in the process.

  86. says

    Would it make any difference if a bunch of nice Aryan students were wearing t-shits with a likeness of Tomas de Torquemada with a juice quote (in latin, let’s keep it “classy”) about the need of Jews, heretics, idolaters and apostates needing to have their immortal souls cleansed in fire? How about a t-shirt with Eichman’s likeness and, “Arbeit macht frei”, in that nice gothic script? How about either of the above in a public school with a large %age of Jews and the “mud people”?

    I’m just curious; would the “absolute free speech” rule still apply? Would the Jews and the “others” be told, “Suck it up, you have no right to NOT be offended!”.?

  87. says

    Um… on this, I think I’d have to disagree. The presence of incidents (presuming they are also “significant”; EG, criminally prosecutable) renders “specific and significant fear of disruption, not just some remote apprehension of disturbance“, which is the tipping point when regulation of student speech is legally allowed.

    Really? Can you quote me ANY Federal court ruling that says schools can’t discourage bad manners? That’s what we’re talking about here, not “student speech.” Flaunting racist symbols is bad manners, just like shouting racial epithets, and schools are OBLIGATED to discourage such conduct on their turf, as part of their basic educational mission. If there’s a law or court ruling that says otherwise, please quote it for us.

  88. says

    Would the Jews and the “others” be told, “Suck it up, you have no right to NOT be offended!”.?

    That’s pretty much the intent of all this bogus “free speech absolutism” as practiced by people like John Pieret: using “free speech” to get overt racism into public spaces where it can’t be avoided. It’s pretty much in line with the other fascist campaign to use “religious freedom” to justify discrimination against gays (and God knows who else) and get creationism into science classes.

  89. says

    Also, when it comes to “regualting student speech,” I’m pretty sure schools have a lot more leeway to do this than the “freeze peach” crowd admit. For example: a history class can talk about the Holocaust without giving neo-nazis equal time to explain why it was right to kill all those Jews. And if one kid is having some serious problems — such as cancer or being victimized by crime — the school can allow students to say supportive things about the kid, and forbid them from saying negative or hurtful things.

  90. dingojack says

    democommie (#58) – You, of course, have hard evidence of mass disapproval (and/or violence) against the organisations and individuals who organised the funeral of the victims of the Hindenbrg Disaster*, in America during the late 30’s, right?
    Dingo
    ——–
    * You should know that using the Aorist voice implies an absolute statement. I think you probably really meant a qualified statement, don’t you?
    PS: I think I mentioned twice that bad analogies are just bad, didn’t I?

  91. abb3w says

    @105, lofgren

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    That does look to be the likely eventual outcome. I also suspect we’re reaching the point of having said enough for any audience to assess our respective positions and character; my responses focus accordingly.

    @105, lofgren

    So you’re not saying that an incident 20 years ago establishes a pattern. You’re saying it establishes a cultural pattern.

    No, I’m saying that 1994 did not have a single incident, but multiple incidents; and your failure to acknowledge that it was not “an incident” but rather incidents in the plural makes you subjectively seem mendacious, duplicitious, and/or stupid.

    Others may come to different conclusions from this evidence, however.

    @105, lofgren

    Unless your experiment specified a cut off point, your conclusion is unreliable because it is too easily subject to post hoc rationalizing. And not just a time period. Did you have specific types of incidents in mind? Unless you can tell me exactly what you were looking for and how far back you think it is reasonable to look – and had those same criteria in mind when you started your search – your conclusions simply cannot be trusted.

    I originally went looking in the expectation that this possible grounds for a different conclusion would NOT exist; the school is in Washington, not Mississippi. The initial search was of the Google News Archive, with “Tahoma High School” and “confederate”. I expected to find nothing; to my shock, I instead found stories on the 1994 incidents, and on the consequent 1995 institution of the dress code. (Today, the 2013 incident also shows up.)

    True, I did not have a specific time period in mind. Use of Google News Archives creates some implicit pretty trivial limits, as does the name of the school (as no incident could have occured much prior to the 1927 founding, nor the 1860 formation of the Confederacy). I suspect I’d have discounted anything before the 1969 ruling in Alexander v Holmes, and likely anything prior to the 1974 Boston riots. That the incident is after my own 1989 graduation from high school in New York probably plays some role. A precise answer is now unobtainable.

    Contrariwise, your position can equally be charged as a post hoc rationalization for discounting the incidents — and your failure to acknowledge that it was incidents seems supporting evidence.

    @107, Raging Bee

    Can you quote me ANY Federal court ruling that says schools can’t discourage bad manners?

    I couldn’t off the top of my head, so I went looking, using Google Scholar to search SCOTUS rulings with "bad manners"|"rudeness" "first amendment". Veronia v Acton and its citation to Bethel v Frasier turn up to address the question; and indeed, notes a duty of schools to inculcate inculcate the habits and manners of civility as values. However, the reasoning of BvF also demarcates its circumstances from the permissive ruling in Tinker, by noting the penalties imposed in this case were unrelated to any political viewpoint. As the wearing of a Confederate flag seems clearly related to a (racist) political viewpoint, this would appear to fall back into a grey zone of political speech grossly violating public policy as in Tinker.

    The question would thus appear to remain undecided in the courts as to whether the wearing of a Confederate flag is closer (as Bethel salutes) to “Tinker’s armband” or “Cohen’s jacket”. However, unlike “fuck the draft”, the Confederate Flag does not appear to fall clearly within the categories outlined by Chaplinsky v NH. It is not in itself insulting, lewd, obscene (in the legal sense), profane, nor libelous. Given that it is (viley) displayed in public in several states without triggering riots, it seems hard to argue it counts as “fighting words” tending to generally trigger immediate breach of the peace. The only basis I see is for general censorship is a a message in clear violation of public policy, and might fall in the same category of “Bong hits for Jesus” per Morse v Frederick. However, MvF refers back to Tinker, and notes “mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint” is not sufficient. The ruling of Tinker would also seem to indicate merely being contrary to established public policy is inadequate.

    I suspect there would be little difficulty finding a lawyer to argue (and at least two SCOTUS Justices to favor) either direction as to whether or not this particular type of bad manners may generally be regulated by schools.

    As such, I reinterate that the incident is relevant. While elsewhere a grey zone might exist, having a history of associated criminally prosecutable incidents gives the “specific and significant fear of disruption” needed to kick the rule out of the generally gray zone.

  92. says

    “democommie (#58) – You, of course, have hard evidence of mass disapproval (and/or violence) against the organisations and individuals who organised the funeral of the victims of the Hindenbrg Disaster*, in America during the late 30′s, right?”

    WTF are you even talking about?

    Your original, incorrect, assertion:

    “I’m assuming you mean in America in the 30′s (in Germany, at the time, it’d be a sign of patriotism), well totally different, since America was, at that time neutral and the hateful nature of the Nazi regime wasn’t known (even inside Germany itself).
    Bad analogies are just bad.”

    Which you evidently persist in clinging to–is still incorrect.

    And you keep clamoring for evidence to support MASS DISAPPROVAL of Nazi regalia–in spite of the fact that you furnish no information about where the photograph you linked to was taken, when or in what circumstances.

    I’m not sure how you think that you’ve bolstered your case while refusing to furnish that information and instead insist on others proving your incorrect assertion has some merit. It does not.

  93. lofgren says

    I also suspect we’re reaching the point of having said enough for any audience to assess our respective positions and character; my responses focus accordingly.

    Sure, maybe an audience of assholes who think a single exchange over a minor point of logic on a blog is enough to judge a person’s character. Hopefully none of those types are hanging around here.

    your failure to acknowledge that it was not “an incident” but rather incidents in the plural makes you subjectively seem mendacious, duplicitious, and/or stupid.

    You have not yet established the significance of an incident, let alone the multiple incidents that would necessitate my acknowledgement. Multiplying one piece of useless evidence times three does not make it more compelling.

    Moreover:

    1. I do not dispute that, sometime between 1990 and 1998, there were two or more groups of students who had some kind of conflict that was racially tinged. Whether there were 2, 3, 7, or 15 incidents in 1994 is irrelevant. Each additional incident does not add any new information.

    2. You have not yet established that the time frame of the incidents is enough to establish a pattern, let alone the number. Are you saying that if there were two incidents, then you would not be making the same assertion? Making the number of incidents a factor in addition to their time frame only creates MORE problems with your methodology.

    You have already said that three incidents spanning a twenty year period is less compelling evidence of a pattern than three incidents in a single year, a conclusion I find peculiar given that a single outlying year would tend to demonstrate that year is an aberration, while an ongoing series of incidents would seem more likely to indicate a low-level, persistent conflict.

    3. Like you, I suspect that there were many more incidents that never made it to the newspaper, so as we both agree that the number of reported incidents is unreliable there seemed to be little reason to care about the precise number that were reported.

    Contrariwise, your position can equally be charged as a post hoc rationalization for discounting the incidents — and your failure to acknowledge that it was incidents seems supporting evidence.

    Sure, if we want to throw all logic and reason out the window, that might make sense.

    Let’s review:

    You claim that this school is a special, unusual circumstance where the additional curtailing of students’ rights is justified based on vague factors you refuse to specify.

    In support of this claim, you present a single data point, coincidentally the school in question and coincidentally just inside of the vague time limit and having just the right vague number of incidents to support your assertion.

    You confess that this is an irrational way of acquiring evidence and you have insufficient data to support your assertion.

    BUT you say that if somebody (i.e. me) does not come to the same conclusion that you did based on this pretty much useless evidence, and calls you out for your horrible methodology and irrational, baseless claims, then they are also guilty of being irrational.

    Sure. And science is a religion and evolution requires more faith than creationism and wealth is an indicator of moral superiority.

    Since you like to call out logical fallacies by name, this one is called “tu quoque.” When you attempt to shift the subject of the conversation from your own logical inadequacies to the character of your opponent, that’s called an “ad hominem.”

  94. dingojack says

    Demo – nope, I don’t have to prove anything.
    You made the absolutist claim that displaying a Nazi Flag incited violence (or at the least disapproval) in America in the late 30’s. Did it in this case? Prove it.
    I’ll wait.
    DIngo

  95. abb3w says

    @113, lofgren:

    Since you like to call out logical fallacies by name, this one is called “tu quoque.”

    I think any remaining audience that I might be able to persuade will have no difficulty using the nice entry at the fallacy files to decide whether all elements of that fallacy are present or not, and response to most of the rest of that would just involve reiterating things I said earlier. So, merely noting those seems largely sufficient.

    Doing some relatively unrelated reading last night, I stumbled across the Grutter v Bollinger case, which — though there’s reasons that’s not an exact parallel — has language that seems to indicate that the SCOTUS then considered a reasonable scope for courts’ considering history of racism in education to be not less than 25 and not more than 50 years.

    More pertinent to my discussion with Raging Bee, I’ll also add to my previous discussion of the case law that the Sixth (Barr v Lafon, Castorina v. Madison, Melton v. Young), Tenth (West v Derby) and Eleventh (Scott v Alachua) Circuits have all upheld bans on the Confederate flag in schools considered to have “history of racial tensions leading to disturbances”. (In the last of these, certiorari was denied.) I can find no case where a federal court has ever struck down a school’s ban against displaying the Confederate flag, though that may be a weakness in my Google-Fu.

  96. abb3w says

    @116, Raging Bee:

    So I guess the short answer to my original question is “NO.”

    If you’re referring to your question about courts, schools, and manners, and you want an answer that is only technically correct without concern on being materially misleading (say, as a means of Attitude Bolstering), then “no” suffices.

    A more complete answer is that there is case law (particularly Bethel v Fraser) stating that schools have a duty to teach manners, but a duty which is in turn circumscribed by the duty to allow students’ political expression, which in turn is circumscribed by the essential duty to prevent violence, necessary to the fundamental duty of schools’ basic educational mission.

    As every instance of the courts addressing school bans of the Confederate flag have been as a result of recent violence, it is not clear whether the courts would allow it to be banned as merely vulgar in the absence of such violence, nor the exact duration of violence-related ban which the courts would allow.

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