Students at a central Indiana high school were banned from wearing or displaying the Confederate flag after administrators said it led to verbal altercations and caused a “substantial disruption.”
The flag ban went into effect Friday after about two dozen students at Lapel High School, in Madison County, broke out their Confederate flag gear and wore it two consecutive days near the start of the new school year, which began on Aug. 15, The Indianapolis Star reported. The students also drove together to school in multiple vehicles decorated with the Confederate flag. In response, another group of students reportedly planned to wear Black Lives Matter shirts, but were stopped from doing so, as well.
Bobby Fields, superintendent of the school district, said in a statement that the emblem was banned to prevent disruptions to “the integrity and sanctity of the teaching and learning process.” No students have been disciplined in the matter.
Students who took part in the display said it’s part of an annual historical commemoration of the Second Battle of Bull Run, RTV6 reported. Each of the students met one-on-one with Chad Kemerly, the school principal, to discuss their intentions behind wearing the flag.
“We talked about the Southern heritage, and that for many people, that flag stands for racism,” Kemerly said. “We emphasized they need to know what the message [is] they’re sending.”
High school senior Peyton Bannon, who wore the flag, said their intent was not racism.
"I'm for what they believe in. I'm for the South,” Bannon said. “They seceded from the North for tax reasons and they just didn't want to be pushed around anymore, so they left."
“I do feel bad for them for letting myself portray it like that,” he said. “I was very disappointed in my community because it wasn’t an act of racism -- it was an act of honor.”
Administrators said they received complaints from more than 75 students -- including some who said they felt bullied.
“They've had these flags every year,” said Elliotte Burton, one of the students who planned to wear Black Lives Matter shirts. “They would just take them down, but now that the situation has been brought up that kids were going to do the Black Lives Matter shirts, they'll literally ride around the school with them flying, then they'll leave the parking lot and drive around this whole town with them."
In his statement, Fields said while the school recognizes its students’ First Amendment rights like freedom of speech and freedom of expression, they “should not be used to disrupt the learning process of other students or to inflame, insult, bully or intimidate other students.” He said those rights were outweighed by the likelihood that displaying the flag would undermine the learning atmosphere.