School suspends stu­dent for wear­ing Con­fed­er­ate flag shirt

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

A MON­TANA high school stu­dent has been dis­ci­plined for con­tin­u­ing to wear a Con­fed­er­ate flag sweat­shirt af­ter ad­min­is­tra­tors re­quested that he stop wear­ing it.

Mitchell Bal­las was sus­pended on Tues­day af­ter wear­ing the sweat­shirt to Big Sky High School ev­ery day since last week, the Mis­sou­lian re­ported.

The 17-year-old Mis­soula stu­dent said the flag is mis­un­der­stood. He said he is wear­ing the dis­play to stand up for stu­dents’ free­dom of speech.

“The school is in the wrong for say­ing they can dic­tate to me wear­ing this sweat­shirt,” Bal­las said. “They’re say­ing it’s of­fend­ing kids and it’s deroga­tory and all that, but it’s not. It’s my First Amend­ment right.”

Bal­las started wear­ing the sweat­shirt last week, and he took it off af­ter he was asked, he said. He con­tin­ued to wear it dur­ing the fol­low­ing days and was given two days of de­ten­tion last Fri­day, he said.

Bal­las con­tin­ued to wear it this week, re­sult­ing in a sus­pen­sion on Tues­day.

“To­mor­row, I’m go­ing to wear the sweat­shirt again, and if they sus­pend me longer, they sus­pend me longer, but I’m not go­ing to give in to them,” Bal­las said on Tues­day. “What they’re do­ing is wrong, and I won’t al­low it.”

Prin­ci­pal Natalie Jaeger said that she can’t com­ment on matters re­lated to spe­cific stu­dents, but she noted that sev­eral stu­dents had been dis­play­ing the flag on cloth­ing and cars over the last month. A few stu­dents and par­ents have dis­agreed with ad­min­is­tra­tors over the flag’s mean­ing, she said.

About 30 stu­dents have told school ad­min­is­tra­tors that they feel anx­ious or afraid be­cause of the flag dis­plays, Jaeger said.

The school hand­book and dress code does not ap­pear to pro­hibit wear­ing the sym­bol, Bal­las said.

The school’s pol­icy, how­ever, states that if a stu­dent’s be­hav­iour “con­sti­tutes a dis­rup­tion of the learn­ing environment”, ad­min­is­tra­tors can re­serve the right to dis­ci­pline stu­dents “re­gard­less of where or how the spe­cific be­hav­iour oc­curs”.

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