New York School Bans Two Students Who Brought Confederate Flag To After-Hours Sporting Event

220px-Confederate_Rebel_Flag.svgTwo high school students at St. Anthony’s High School in Long Island have been suspended indefinitely after they walked into an after-hours sporting event wearing a Confederate flag draped over their shoulders. We recently discussed another suspension of a student involving a Confederate flag. I have the same free speech concerns in this case. The question is whether other flags would also be confiscated and the student suspended in my view. While I can certainly understand how this flag represents racism for many, others view the flag as a symbol of Southern heritage and heroism. I often see them in Virginia and recoil a bit due to the association with slavery. However, my concern is where the school is drawing the line on speech.

Brother Gary Cregan, principal of St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, stated that “[t]he African-American students who immediately saw it really exercised heroic restraint and fortunately a teacher immediately confiscated the flag and took the students out of the gym.” They were initially suspended for 10 days and will now be barred from returning. Cregan explained to the parents that the flag is a symbol “designed to revive past injustices or to inflame discrimination or racial intolerance, [and] is completely unacceptable and profoundly offensive.” Cregan rejected any claims that the flag represents Southern history or heritage: “I find it just very hard to even imagine why any student in 2014 would even consider or think that a Confederate flag would be anything other than a symbol of hate.” Other students supported the school and said that what matters is that some people are offended by the flag.

I find Cregan’s motives laudable and I also believe that the other students should be commended for showing restraint. However, I am unclear as to the rule applied in this case? Would the school have reacted the same way with a Soviet flag or a Chinese flag or other flags that are viewed any many to represent oppressive histories? How about a rainbow flag viewed immoral by some or an Israeli or Palestinian flag that would inflame contemporary passions? I can understand a ban on any flags or posters at sporting events, but the selection of some symbols raises question of content-based censorship. The flag clearly (and understandably) represents slavery and racism to many. However, it also represents different things to different people. Respected scholars like Civil War historian Shelby Foote have noted that the flag traditionally represented the South’s resistance to Northern political dominance. As discussing in PBS interview, he was sensitive to how many of his friends viewed it as a symbol of racism but he did not share that view. Others view it as a symbol of state’s rights or Southern culture or opposition to speech codes or politically correct sentiments. The point is that, if some flags are allowed, there are a variety of symbols that are viewed as offensive by different groups.

The school is not a state school and thus not subject to the limitation of the First Amendment. Yet, that does not mean that it should engage in arbitrary limitations on speech. I went to the website and I could not find any published rules of conduct. The question is whether there is a rule addressing after-hours events. If the rule is not clear, the question is whether it should be made more explicit as to any and all such symbols — and whether it is fair to suspend the students indefinitely. Teenagers do stupid things and I would not be surprised if this was an effort to get a rise out of everyone. However, in the official statement below, the school does not quote or cite the rule used against the students.

What also concerns me is the reference to punish two students who “blatantly disregarded the principal’s request to discontinue the use of social media to inflame discrimination in the school community by displaying an inappropriate picture and comment.” The school simply states that “These students have been appropriately acted upon.” I fail to see why a school should attempt to censor or block students in discussing this controversy — and disagreeing with the school’s actions. Even if you are comfortable with suspending the boys with the flag, these students appear to be engaging in pure debate over the merits of the rule and the response of the school. The school states “As a Catholic and Franciscan school, Saint Anthony’s will always demand acceptance and respect for all races, religions and cultures.” However, the school should also demand tolerance for different views and the protection of free speech for both its students and faculty. Ordering students not to discuss a controversy (and perhaps not challenging the school’s actions) will do little to quell the controversy. What it will do is to force the debate into the shadows will it will fester and deepen. Declaring “thou shalt not disagree” will not produce agreement — only forced silence. [There are reports that two students may have worn black face in messages on the social media. While there remains the issue of the regulation of after-hours, out-of-school communications, that is obviously a very disturbing matter. However, the general order not to discuss the controversy on social media on the issue remains highly problematic.]

The Confederate flag has not been treated in the federal courts as a form of hate speech and continues to appear in a wide variety of public locations and private displays. Ironically, for some of those students on social media, this controversy may make the flag a symbol of self-expression or resisting compelled speech codes.

What do you think? Was indefinite suspension and the bar on social media discussions warranted in this case?

DATE: April 16, 2014
RE: Confederate flag incident
From: Brother Gary Cregan, OSF, principal,
Saint Anthony’s High School, Huntington, NY
On the evening of Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at Saint Anthony’s High School, Huntington, NY, during a supervised intramural European Handball game with multiple teams, a small number of students displayed a symbol of hate – the Confederate Flag. Upon entering the gym, the flag was confiscated by faculty moderators, and the students were told to leave the property.

The two individuals who were responsible for bringing the flag to school, and for wearing it into the gym, were immediately given a long term suspension the next day. After further discussion and consultation, it became necessary to impose additional disciplinary action. In addition, two other students blatantly disregarded the principal’s request to discontinue the use of social media to inflame discrimination in the school community by displaying an inappropriate picture and comment. These students have been appropriately acted upon.

Saint Anthony’s is committed to addressing the issue of racial intolerance with faculty, students and parents through education, awareness and dialogue in an ongoing basis. The use of any symbol, either historic or current, which carries a meaning designed to revive past injustices, or to inflame discrimination or racial intolerance is completely unacceptable and profoundly offensive. As a Catholic and Franciscan school, Saint Anthony’s will always demand acceptance and respect for all races, religions and cultures.
# # #
Christina Buehler
Director of Communications

Source: CBS

528 thoughts on “New York School Bans Two Students Who Brought Confederate Flag To After-Hours Sporting Event”

  1. Tariffs are certainly an option. Some companies were delighted at a global economy because of the cheap labor force. Others thought it would be a means to finally get some income into poor villages. But that fact remains that it spelled the end of most American manufacturing.

  2. Karen,
    Now that I am back, I would like to respond that we can compete in any field if the tariffs for our competitors are enough to level the playing field.

  3. Elaine,

    You’re getting moved to to the head of the list for dispairing and causing one unnamed individual stress and grief…… You may get reported and have your post deleted…. You know that’s the risk…right…

  4. We are all sinners. But as a libertarian, it is a live and let live philosophy, the antithesis of progressives, the most judgmental people out there.

    1. Dredd – what ever in the world are you referring to. I am going to take a wild guess and say that there is not one person commenting on this thread who is a virgin.

  5. Nick Spinelli

    My wise and patient mother would often say to us kids when appropriate, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
    Which means “condemn not” because that is bad judgment.

    Splains a lot Nick, splains a lot.

    You need to understand what yo momma is sayin’, even if you don’t know what she is sayin’ … capice?

  6. My wise and patient mother would often say to us kids when appropriate, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

  7. Paul,
    I won’t give my son in law, or even my own daughter a pass on what is wrong, just because I love them. It’s because I love them I would like to see them do what was is right. They understand this and seem to love me back, go figure. People can disagree on fundamental issues and still love one another.

  8. Annie,

    It seems one or more has cast the line…. Some trawling others baiting…. Be wise in answering….

  9. Karen,
    Yes of course it’s an option. He would make less profit, yes indeed he would, but he and my grandchildren and my daughter would STILL have a very comfortable lifestyle.

  10. Annie:

    You say that you are happy that your daughter and her husband are wealthy. But you also said if they made their products here “He and my daughter wouldn’t be able to take two trips to Europe in a year, or pay cash for a $750,000 vacation home, but he could have the satisfaction of knowing he was contributing to the health of the nation he is a citizen of.”

    So, it sounds like you are not pleased that they live a luxurious lifestyle, and that such excess is perhaps shameful or wrong in some way.

    I agree with you that it’s better to keep jobs here if possible. But remember that there are some markets for which American made just can’t compete.

    1. Karen – I have to agree with your take on Annie and her daughter and her husband. Somehow she has stigmatized them as not patriotic, not contributing to their country, etc.
      I have a former student whose mother was a crack addict, maybe still is. She and her husband just moved into their new $750k house in Washington. I am not the least bit jealous, I am happy as a clam she, her husband and her kids are doing well. I keep up with her, and other students, on Facebook.

  11. Annie:

    You should be proud of having a social conscience. We all should think about how our actions affect others.

    Could you answer my question on whether making his products in America is an option at the price he sells them? Could he conceivably make them here and keep the price the same? If so, I hope he considers it.

  12. Some average wage earners actually even became jealous of those other wage earners who were union represented, because they may have earned a bit more money and had better benefits. Such jealousy among the working class is disgusting.

  13. Although not one of the Seven Deadly Sims, being judgmental is a cousin of Pride, which is a deadly sin. Pride is a double edged sword, it can be positive and destructive. We have all seen it’s double edged dynamic in people. We’re all human and flawed. We’re all sinners.

  14. I once asked my son in law what would happen if there were so much unemployment and people became so poor they could no longer afford the cheap goods he manufactures in China and sells at Walmart. He answered, “Well then I’d be screwed”.

  15. Envy? Such utter nonsense. I’m happy for my daughter and son in law and grandchildren. I would be even happier if their wealth was made here in the States. Some folks who have much less wealth than my children see themselves as on the same level as m wealthy children, they don’t have the self awareness to know that they would be rejected in that social circle UNLESS they were related, such as a mother and mother in law for instance.

    1. Annie – so you are saying you are welcome in their social circle as long as they stay married?

  16. KarenS, This “income inequality” meme of Dem politicians hits on one of the seven deadly sins, envy. This is a destructive, cynical, political manipulation. If it succeeds, we are screwed. When I see someone work hard and be successful I’m happy for them, even if I don’t particularly like them. Not everyone has that positive mindset. I made my living because of the seven deadly sins, envy being one of the biggest destroyers of lives.

  17. Annie – I am unsure about how your son-in-law’s wealth harms others. It seems he is allowing others to purchase goods at a lower cost. That sounds positive to me.

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