2017 NYSASA Conference
Recently, in some school districts across the state, students have chosen to display Confederate flags on school grounds. Some students have worn T-shirts emblazoned with the Confederate “Southern Cross,” and some have hung large Confederate flags from their vehicles in school parking lots. These displays often trigger complaints from other students and community members who consider the Confederate flag to be a symbol of racial oppression.

In a 2015 poll by CNN, 33 percent of Americans said they considered the flag to be a symbol of racism, while 57 percent said it represented Southern pride. Among whites with a college degree, 51 percent said it was a symbol of pride, and 41 percent said it represented racism.

The appropriateness of allowing the flag to be flown in official spaces has been debated in both the North and the South. After a shooting left nine black churchgoers dead in South Carolina in 2016, state officials stopped flying the Confederate flag at the state Capitol.

How should school administrators respond when a student displays the Confederate flag at school? What are a school district’s obligations to students who want to display the flag as well as others who object to or feel threatened by its display? Is the district on safe legal ground if it prevents displays of the flag or punishes students who do so?

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