More than 20 Virginia high school students were suspended Thursday for wearing clothes emblazoned with the Confederate flag.
At Christiansburg High School in southwestern Virginia, it is against the dress code to wear anything that could “reflect adversely on persons due to race,” specifically “clothing with Confederate flag symbols.” Montgomery County schools spokeswoman Brenda Drake told The Washington Post that Confederate flags have been banned at the school since 2002, after a series of racially motivated fights, some of which were provoked by students wearing the symbols.
Ms. Drake told WSLS 10 News that initially, the 23 students had the opportunity to comply with the dress code when they walked into school. When they refused, they were given one day of in-school suspension. She says for some the penalty was changed to out-of-school suspension when they became disruptive.
The students were part of a demonstration against the dress code, which they say unfairly targets the Confederate flag.
“We’re not trying to go into school and raise Cain or anything,” junior Zach Comer told the Post. “We’re doing it to raise a point that the flag is not racist. Everyone else can wear whatever shirts they want but we’re not. We just said ‘It’s time to put a stop to it.' ”
At least one of the 20 students has said that he won’t back down. Senior Houston Miller told the Associated Press that he plans on wearing Confederate flag gear to school again because he believes he has the right to wear what he wants.
The protest comes after a recent policy that prevents students from placing Confederate decals on their cars, a prerequisite agreement for students who want to park at the school. Though the flag has always been a subject of controversy, the June massacre that left nine dead at a historic black church in South Carolina catalyzed recent intensive debates on whether it should be prohibited.
Drake says that half of all middle schools and high schools in the county do not allow the display of the Confederate flag. The other three high schools in the district have no such policy, the Messenger News reports.
This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.