02/19/04 — Confederate group warns school board

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Confederate group warns school board

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 19, 2004 2:01 PM

The Sons of Confederate Veterans says it has warned the Wayne County Board of Education that its policy against students wearing Confederate-themed clothing could have legal consequences.

In a letter Monday, Roger W. McCredie of Asheville, a member of the group's national Heritage Defense Committee, said the recent actions against several Southern Wayne High School students for wearing Confederate-theme T-shirts was "a very real and very flagrant abridgment of their civil rights."

He added that recent federal court decisions favorable to the wearing of Confederate clothing could give the students and their parents "a very good chance of prevailing if they should decide to litigate against the school system."

In January, administrators at Southern Wayne High School suspended at least one student and disciplined several others for attending class in T-shirts depicting Confederate flags and symbols. The shirts were said to be "disruptive clothing" as defined by the school's dress code.

The students said they had been wearing similar shirts all semester without incident. Three students appeared before the school board at its February meeting to explain that they had worn the shirts out of pride for their Confederate heritage and to express concern over the school's actions. The board allowed the students to speak but did not respond.

Pete Gurley, chairman of the school board, said today that the board has not discussed the matter further and stands by the policy. He said the superintendent has ultimate authority, and the school principals make the determination if clothing is considered potentially disruptive.

Gurley said he could not comment on the potential legal ramifications as he has not seen the letter from the Confederate group. The superintendent's office also said it had not received the letter.

McCredie urged Superintendent Steven Taylor to arrange a meeting of school board members, the students and their parents to reach "a consensus" about Confederate clothing for the dress code. He offered the group's assistance in providing historical input about Confederate symbols, as well as "a national perspective on civil rights as applied to Confederate issues."

The group is involved, in an advisory capacity, in several similar cases nationwide, McCredie said.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a 108-year-old association made up of the descendants of Confederate says it has about 34,000 members, 3,000 of whom are North Carolinians.