Minn. students barred from graduation for waving Rebel flags

Thursday, June 5, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — A high school banned three seniors from graduation ceremonies this week, saying they waved Confederate flags in the school parking lot.

School spokesman Rick Kaufman said the students were suspended from all school-sponsored activities — including last night’s commencement — for carrying and waving the flags as people arrived for school on June 3. He said one of the students involved in the latest incident was suspended in the past year for the same reason.

Bloomington Kennedy High School senior Kellie Rezac, a friend of the three suspended students, said the flags were on their cars and that they are not racists.

She said they had flown the Confederate flag before and that they simply admired the “Southern lifestyle” and TV shows such as “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Dan Fredin, 18, one of the suspended students, said one of the students complied with a request to remove the flag from school property, and another drove his truck home and returned to school later.

“They didn’t even drive 100 feet into the school parking lot, and the teachers and [security guards] came out and said remove it from sight,” Fredin said.

Fredin told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he drove to school separately and had gone into the school before the administrators made the request. Someone else removed the flag from his vehicle on June 3 without telling him, he said. “I don't even know where it is now,” he told the newspaper.

Fredin and Rezac said the school’s principal overreacted. Fredin said the principal wasn’t there to witness their compliance with other staff members’ request to remove the flag.

“I’m from a family of five, and I’m the first one not to walk” in graduation, Fredin said. “It’s like getting life in prison for jaywalking.”

The three will still receive their diplomas.

Kaufman said students know they’re not allowed to have a Confederate flag on school property because it may violate district policies against discrimination.

“The Confederate flag is seen as a symbol of hatred and bigotry and racism,” he said.

The incident happened the morning of June 3. Yesterday morning, about 100 students protested outside the school.

Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Minnesota, said any legal challenge by the suspended students’ families would have a “very, very slim” chance of succeeding.

“If, in the opinion of the administration, your speech carries the possibility of a material disruption of the educational process, they can censor it,” he said. “I wish students had more rights, but they have no rights.”

Tags: , , ,