Kentucky students sue for right to wear Rebel symbol

Tuesday, February 17, 1998

RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) — Two students suspended from Madison Central High School for wearing T-shirts bearing Confederate flags have filed a lawsuit alleging that school officials violated their civil rights.

The teens and their parents say the Confederate flag is part of their American heritage.

Tiffany Dargavell, 15, and Tim Castorina, 16, were suspended from the high school in September, after they were told that the Hank Williams Jr. concert T-shirts they wore bearing the Confederate flag were against the school’s dress code.

School officials gave the pair a choice: change the shirts or be suspended. The pair chose suspension not once but twice within a 10-day period. The teens’ parents—Greg and Sandra Dargavell and Patsy Rewt—removed the students from the school Sept. 26. They now are being homeschooled.

The suit asks for an injunction that would allow students to wear the Confederate flag symbol, for the removal of disciplinary action from their records and for unspecified damages.

The suit, filed earlier this month in Madison Circuit Court, alleges that Superintendent Shannon Johnson and Madison Central High School Principal Bill Fultz sought to deprive the students of “their right to free speech and expressions, liberty, property, due process and equal protection of the law.”

School officials deny the allegations, saying that the symbol historically has been a source of conflict in school settings. It is prohibited in the high school’s dress policy.

“We’ll fight it all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Johnson. “I don’t know of any school system that allows those types of shirts to be worn.”

The suit alleges that the school dress code is inconsistent, because other students are allowed to wear and display what they like without any reprimand.

“The school district has allowed black students to display flags, insignia, stickers, wearing apparel and other displays of black heritage, including, but not limited to, Malcolm X clothing or accessories and Afro-American solidarity flags and slogans,” the suit said.

Fultz, who has served as principal of the 1,400-student school since 1993, acknowledged that it is impossible to catch every violator of the school’s policy, but said the policy is for the good of the majority of students.

“We have always tried to treat every student the same in terms of implementing policy, and we don’t want any student to feel uncomfortable,” said Fultz.