Display of Confederate flag at school prompts debate

June 7, 2016

Crosby-Ironton High School senior Cody Nelson was suspended May 16 for displaying a Confederate flag on school grounds. The school threatened to withhold Nelson’s diploma, but after a protest ensued, he was allowed to graduate.

School district’s discipline of student justifiable, necessary

Racist symbolic speech has no place in modern society

The Confederate flag symbolizes the oppression of people based on white supremacy. Its presence on a school’s grounds insults and threatens people of color and supports a dangerously ignorant piece of the United States’ history.

The First Amendment has no logical application to this student’s use of the Confederate flag. The First Amendment is not is absolute, meaning it has boundaries.

The use of the First Amendment as justification for blatant discrimination shouldn’t be allowed. Had this event happened at Park, a substantial disruption to the school day could occur because of the student body’s progressive attitude toward racial issues. The Supreme Court cites this disruption as a reason to restrict free speech in the 1969 case of Tinker v. Des Moines.

The safety of the student body must be prioritized over a single student’s choice to display a symbol that obviously represents harm to a large group of people.

If students’ free speech infringes on the well-being of another group, their words have no place in society. Since the First Amendment has limits, their speech should not be protected.

Additionally, the Crosby-Ironton School District has regulations in place forbidding “symbols, signs, words, objects or pictures on clothing or jewelry or other displays communicating a message that is racist, sexist or otherwise derogatory to a protected minority group.”

Nelson’s actions in these situation lacked an appropriate justification. He displayed a symbol of hatred and racism on school property, which regulates the use of hateful symbols, and disobeyed the school when it rightfully asked him to remove the symbol.

Free speech plays a critical role in the United States’ existence, but the Confederate flag doesn’t. It represents years of anger, prejudice and danger for many. The freedom to hate must be sacrificed in order to protect the people of an incredibly diverse nation with a history of shunning its people of color.

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