PV student told to change his Confederate flag shirt

What First Amendment rights do you have as a student?

Several+Pleasant+Valley+students+recently+complained+to+administration+when+a+peer+wore+a+sweatshirt+with+the+Confederate+flag+to+school%2C+causing+administrators+to+better+define+student+rights.+
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PV student told to change his Confederate flag shirt

Several Pleasant Valley students recently complained to administration when a peer wore a sweatshirt with the Confederate flag to school, causing administrators to better define student rights.

Several Pleasant Valley students recently complained to administration when a peer wore a sweatshirt with the Confederate flag to school, causing administrators to better define student rights.

Trinity Malmen

Several Pleasant Valley students recently complained to administration when a peer wore a sweatshirt with the Confederate flag to school, causing administrators to better define student rights.

Trinity Malmen

Trinity Malmen

Several Pleasant Valley students recently complained to administration when a peer wore a sweatshirt with the Confederate flag to school, causing administrators to better define student rights.

Trinity Malmen, Staff Contributor

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Controversy struck the halls of Pleasant Valley High School when a student was spotted wearing a shirt displaying a Confederate flag.  Many students took notice of this and complained to the school administration who confirmed they took the immediate action they deemed fitting.

But Pleasant Valley High School is not the only school that has encountered this issue.  On a national level, a school in Arkansas dealt with a very similar situation. A student at Fayetteville High School was suspended for wearing and refusing to remove an article of clothing displaying the Confederate flag.  

These incidents have initiated a series of questions regarding a student’s rights within the school as they pertain to the First Amendment. How free is a student’s speech?

The recent events at PV and the ensuing discussion about student rights are reminiscent of the important Supreme Court case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. In this case, the Supreme Court came to a decision that, “the free expression of public school students can only be restricted if it threatens a material and substantial disruption of the educational process, or invades the rights of others.”

Because of the Supreme Court’s decision, Principal Mike Zimmer can only take action once such disruptions have occurred. He explained how this decision applies at PV, saying the student body is ultimately responsible for administration’s reactions by bringing their concerns to schools officials. He said, “If they say and do nothing, where’s the educational disruption?”

Based on reports and information gathered within the student body, the school then decides on what course of action to take. If one doesn’t speak out on an issue, the school cannot legally do anything. But, if one does, the school is allowed to act because of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Tinker case.

Zimmer wants students to understand that Pleasant Valley High School is not a venue for one to express explicit hatred.  He said, “That type of language, written or displayed, will not be accepted at this school. It is contrary to respecting all students who are welcome here.”

The school holds the right to punish those who violate the rules set in place by the administration. If one wears or displays a controversial issue, logo, symbol, or flag on a piece of clothing, they will be asked to remove that article of clothing or risk in-school suspension.

If the actions of a student cause an educational distraction, they no longer have the right to keep performing that action. If one chooses to wear or draw symbols of hate, they will be punished. According to the law, they are being punished rightly so. While the First Amendment allows one to express themselves freely, it does not guarantee a student the right to express hate that becomes disruptive or concerning to his/her fellow students.