Tongue Tied: Transsexuals, Gamecocks & More Flag Flak

The Residence Hall Association at Texas A&M University voted not to allow students to hang American flags out their dormitory windows because to do so without allowing other nation's flags would create an "exclusionary environment," reports the student newspaper there, The Battalion.

Some students had asked the association to suspend a rule that forbids them from flying anything outside their windows for safety reasons. The students wanted to hang American flags following the Sept. 11 attacks. Other students argued that allowing only American flags but not other flags or objects would be insensitive and nullify campus claims of diversity.

After the vote, Vice President for Student Affairs Malon Southerland clarified the rules because of what he called a "misunderstanding" about the issue.

"There is "zero prohibition" against displaying the American flag on the Texas A&M campus," Southerland emphasized. "We encourage showing our pride in America in that manner.

Welcome to America

An Ethopian student at San Diego State University who overheard a group of Saudi Arabian students relishing the World Trade Center attacks and admonished them for it was brought up on disciplinary charges for verbally harassing others, reports the Daily Aztec.

Zewdalem Kebede says he was in the library and overheard the conversation in Arabic and confronted the students. He says he told them the comments were unfair and criticized them for being happy about the death of 5,000 people.

After a heated exchange police were called and statements were taken from all parties. No charges were filed, but Kebede received a letter from the university's Center for Student Rights warning him that the penalty for verbally abusing other students is expulsion.

Kebede was not punished, but did get a warning that future involvement in "confronting members of the campus community in a manner that is found to be aggressive or abusive" will result in severe disciplinary sanctions.

Kebede said he had no regrets. "I am an honest citizen for this country. I showed those guys that there are people who love America, who defend America. That's what I showed," he said. "Is that a crime?"

More Offended Firefighters

A firefighter from Albany, N.Y., was placed on administrative leave after he took down a poster hung at his station to honor New York City firefighters killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, reports The Associated Press.

The poster showed an American flag and said, "These colors don't run." The firefighter, Sebastian Banks, 38, found the words offensive, his lawyer said. Banks, a Muslim, was put on paid leave to ease tensions over the incident.

"The purpose of giving him a couple days off is just so we can get the facts and sort the whole thing out. The fire chiefs wanted an opportunity to sort this thing out," said Public Safety Commissioner John Neilsen.

Click here to read the Fox version of the story.

Mascot Mayhem, Chapter XXVII

An Indian rights activist in South Dakota has filed federal civil rights complaints against four school districts in that state that use American Indian nicknames, mascots and the like, reports the AP.

Betty Ann Gross, head of the Minority Resource Center of Watertown, S.D., filed racial discrimination complaints with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights against the Sisseton, Woonsocket, Estelline, and Watertown districts.

If the schools are found to be in violation of civil rights laws, they could lose their federal funding.

Gross said more complaints may be coming, including against at least one school that is made up entirely of Lakota Indians and says it does not want to change its nickname.

He/She Harassment

A new ruling from the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination classifies transsexualism as a handicap worthy of protection under the state's anti-discrimination and disability laws, reports the AP.

The ruling comes in a case, first filed in 1995, in which a transsexual woman named Rachel Jette claimed that her boss at a convenience store harassed her by forcing her to use her birth name, Raymond, and wear men's clothes to work. Later, she amended the complaint to say she was discriminated against because of a "handicap or perceived handicap."

The commission ruled that transsexuals are protected by law because they're often discriminated against for failing to conform with society's expectations for each sex.

The Fighting Gym Socks

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is asking the University of South Carolina to change the nickname of its sports teams because the term Gamecock glorifies the cruelty and violence of cockfighting, reports the Charlotte Observer.

"Like spousal abuse, bank robbery and driving while intoxicated, cockfighting is illegal in South Carolina," PETA spokeswoman Kristie Phelps said. "It's a safe bet that officials at the University of South Carolina would never dream of calling their athletic teams the Dogfighters, the Wifebeaters, the Looters, or the Road-Ragers."

PETA suggests the "Gym Socks" or the "Pet Rocks" or "anything that doesn't perpetuate animal cruelty."

Folks in the athletics department said they have no intention of changing names to the Fightin' Gym Socks any time soon. "We can't imagine there would be any interest by the Carolina community in changing the name of their mascot," said USC spokesman Russ McKinney.


A federal judge in Colorado has ruled that Columbine High School officials violated the First Amendment when they removed several ceramic tiles painted in memory of two victims of the 1999 school shootings there because they depicted Christian symbols, reports the AP.

U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel ruled that the tiles must be restored to the school.

The 4-inch ceramic tiles were painted in a project to renovate the school.

The school district had banned, among other things, religious symbols from the tiles. Relatives and friends of slain students filed the suit, saying the school district's ban violated free speech and showed hostility toward religion.


— A Cleveland high school student suspended for hanging signs on his locker depicting planes bombing Afghanistan will have the suspension reversed and his record wiped clean, reports The Plain Dealer.

A federal judge forced the school to reinstate Aaron Petitt after he was suspended for hanging signs showing American Airlines planes dropping bombs with the words "May God have mercy because we will not." But school Superintendent Nylajean McDaniel still asked that the posters not be displayed "in deference to the Arab-American students."

In a statement, she said students and faculty expressed concern that the posters' message was "threatening, intimidating, inflammatory and/or inappropriate."

— The Madison, Wis., school board last week reversed its decision to ban the Pledge of Allegiance and allow only instrumental versions of "The Star-Spangled Banner" because the words are too bellicose, reports the AP.

Beginning Wednesday, the students in Madison began their mornings with their hands over their hearts, facing the American flag and pledging their commitment to what it represents.


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