Another flag flap

As this is being written, it’s too early — yet — to see exactly how the story in the Star Tribune this morning will play out. Three kids were suspended from Bloomington Kennedy High School for “carrying and waving” the flags in the parking lot as parents and students arrived at the school, according to school district spokesman Rick Kaufman.

Because the school district doesn’t allow anyone to participate in graduation exercises who is under suspension, the boys don’t get to participate.

Two of the boys complied with the request to ditch the flag. But it probably doesn’t help that the photo of the three accompanying the story makes it look like three boys are ready for a philosophical fight. Actually, it doesn’t look like philosophy enters into the scene at all.

You can see what’s coming, right?

There are a couple of ways to this will play (and I’m intentionally not looking at the nearly 600 comments attached to the story):

  • This is freedom of speech, a point which ignores many Supreme Court rulings on the question of school authority.
  • This is a lack of common sense by the school.
  • This is a case of three kids being stupid and now they have to pay the price.
  • This is political correctness run amok.

    Pick your poison.

    Whether we’re talking nooses, swastiskas, or flags, perhaps the debate will come down to the symbols. Or it will degenerate into another battle in the political war that never ends.

    As many teachers will tell you, the classroom is becoming a battle of wills. In Dilworth, three kids got suspended last month for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Classmates there, as in Bloomington, staged a protest over the suspensions.

    On Staten Island last fall, a 12 year old wore a T-shirt to school with the Confederate flag. The school didn’t seem to have a problem with it, but some of his classmates did, evoking the sort of response he (a) may have wanted to evoke and (b) the school in Bloomington might well have been trying to prevent.

    confederate_flag.jpgIt’s not just Minnesota. In Tampa this week, controversy over a confederate flag centers on a plan to raise a giant confederate flag over one of the region’s biggest intersections.

    The story mirrors a point one of the kids in Bloomington tried to make: the flag isn’t a symbol of a racist culture, but a celebration of the Dukes of Hazzard.

    In popular culture, the Confederate flag has been celebrated — as a hood ornamentation on the General Lee in the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard” for example — but also used to depict racism and racist characters.

    It is also listed in the Anti-Defamation League’s database of hate symbols. “Although the flag is seen by some Southerners simply as a symbol of Southern pride, it is often used by racists to represent white domination of African-Americans,” according to the Web site.

    • Andy

      I wonder if there are any trouble makers in the south who get into trouble by hanging Union flags from their Prius’?

      That to me makes as much sense as a bunch of kids from MINNESOTA who hang the Confederate flag from their Chevy pick-up.

      The south with rise again! You betcha!

    • Anne Jackson

      I went to high school in Lowden, IA. Our school mascot was a Rebel and at games we would carry the confederate flag and wave it around. If we made it to a tournament we might have someone running up and down in front of our fans with a large confederate flag. Not until I went to college did I have any idea it was a symbol of racism.

      Through consolidation the “Rebels” no longer exist, but I think it is a lesson in context. We weren’t racists, we were the Clarence-Lowden Rebels. Is the use of symbols in public controlled by one interpretation of their meaning…and who decides what symbols are offensive “enough” to be banned?

    • Alison

      Last night I was shown the story by my spouse, with comments to to the effect of good thing these kids aren’t going to be allowed into graduation. I had to say hold on a minute and consider the angles to this (as has Bob has done). There is nothing clear cut about this decision. Apparently the Confederate flag was a topic that had come up before at the school, so the kids were violating a previously made rule. And the free speech. Athe students intentions. And… And… You might even consider how much the school is willing to spend on the legal fees that may result from the suspension.

      There are amore angles to this story than a steel truss bridge!

    • c

      If their intentions TRULY were not of racism or supremacy, well then let them fly their flag.

      But they should realize in doing so someone may get the wrong impression and retaliate.

      As far as I am concerned waving a Confederate Flag is as brilliant as a tattoo of a swasticka on your arm.

    • bsimon

      Wasn’t the flag on the roof of the General Lee – not the hood?

      “Pick your poison.”

      I vote for ‘E’ – All of the above.

    • Joel

      These boys are from Minnesota, are they not? It doesn’t appear they are from the South at all, so how does “Southern Pride” have anything to do with it? Perhaps they identify with the Southern way of life, but in any case, it’s silly to think they don’t know what the confederate flag means to many people these days. It seems to me, when kids pull a stunt like this, it is not for purposes of “pride”.

      As far as punishment goes, I think instead of refusing to let the kids miss their graduation ceremony, they should have forced them to attend ALL metro graduation ceremonies. I remember my ceremony being excruciatingly boring, I would have happily skipped mine had I the choice.

    • Ross Reishus

      The issue of flags is always dicey, especially with respect to freedom of speech. However, this is just a typical high school thing to do near the end of the school year. Find a controversial topic and flaunt it, just to see what happens. Sociologists and Psychologists might say its just an example of young people finding where their boundaries are at best and at worst a lame excuse to get attention. As a 14 year teacher, I can say that its often both, though more often heavily peppered with the latter than the former. But these events also remind us that we are not done evolving and growing as a nation, or planet for that matter. With each step towards improving our human rights laws, we must continue to educate our youth about the importance of what these symbols mean, and that just because they look cool on a car, hat, t-shirt, tattoo, or flag doesn’t mean they should be celebrated in this way. In order to move society forward, these symbols need to be left in the past. There’s money to be made however, in continuing the controversy (i.e. shirts, hats, flags, etc), and thus it continues under a dangerously broad interpretation of the first amendment.

    • Heather

      I would contend that their intent doesn’t matter as much as the effect, and that’s why the school already had a rule in place regarding the Confederate flag.

      Plus, if they really wanted to “walk” they would have pulled their stunt a little earlier, that’s all! Because clearly these are the plan-ahead, think-things-through sort of kids. With a clear intention.

    • dwp5501

      While these three guys acted like knuckle-heads, the punishment does not fit the crime. Since the Confederate Flag is now banned, I suppose these state flags are unwelcome as well:

      Arkansas – The top of four stars in the center represents that Arkansas was a member of the Confederate States during the Civil War.

      Alabama – patterned after the Confederate Battle Flag.

      Florida – Has the same pattern as Alabama, except the state seal occupies the middle.

      Mississippi – Has the “stars and bars” in the upper left.

    • GregS

      One of the jobs of the school is to act Loco Parentis. Too often schools put too much emphasis on the “loco” while fullfilling their role as “parentis”.

      Schools stand in for parents while juveniles are in school. That means schools can make rules regarding dress and behavior.

      If the school does not allow the display of the stars ‘n bars, that is their right.

      However, suspending kids for doing so…is a little over the top.

      Ever heard of detention?

    • Tyler Suter

      Sick to my stomach

    • c

      Banning the flag is most likely an attempt to proactively stop violence.

      If I were in high school and some kid was waving a flag that discriminated against my heritage and my freedoms, such as this one does, I would retaliate. Remember these are kids and they are no where near the emotional development of most adults.

      I could see gang fights started up over this silly gesture.

      The parents were being proactive.

    • chad

      The conservative way high school textbooks are written and they way they simply brush aside any mention of racism it does not suprise me the ignorance of these students on the subject. Textbooks want to write as if racism was a point in time and now it is done. If these students had done that at a school in Minneapolis the students would have never made it home. These students are in the majority and in a position of power at a predominately white school. The flag was and is used as a simply of white supremacy over black culture. Symbols have a message and a history all there own that can not be ignored. The “southern way of life” was built on the back of slaves in the fields and later forced slavery in the coal and iron mines. The Federal and state governments ignored lynchings and rapes of thousands of black men and women. We as a society need to deal with our racist past. These students are growing up ignorant to a painful past that has not been properly cleansed.

    • cj

      This is about as wrong as the attorney using the term “Black Hole” in court and being accused of being racist. Come on people don’t make it an issue and it won’t be one!!!