By Nigel Boys
Houston Miller, a Senior at Christiansburg High School in Virginia, who was one of about 20 students who were suspended for wearing clothing displaying the Confederate flag when they turned up for school last Thursday, is considering suing the school.
Miller and several other students intend to continue to show up for school wearing Confederate symbols as a protest for the school’s new policy banning vehicles displaying such symbols from its parking lot. Miller, who has been leading the fight against the bans, said he will not back down until the administration reverses their latest ban on vehicles carrying the flag.
In the aftermath of the massacre of nine African-American members of the AME church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17 by suspected gunman Dylann Roof, the Confederate flag and its symbolism, have come under increased public scrutiny. Roof had allegedly posed for online photos of himself with the Confederate battle flag, according to the Associated Press.
Alvin Humes, president of the local chapter of the NAACP in Christiansburg, said he admires the students for standing up for their beliefs, but doesn’t believe they understand the bigger picture. He adds that he supports the school administration’s decision to ban the flags, but if the students understood the pain the symbol brings to black people, the issue could be easily resolved.
Humes wants both sides of the debate brought together for an open discussion on the matter and the meaning of the Confederate battle flag. “I wish that there was some kind of way that we really could have a dialogue with these kids… and try to explain to them what they’re doing is not exactly right because it hurts people in this community,” he said.
Miller and several other students of the high school in Montgomery County still insist they have the right to wear whatever they want and say they intend to show up for school wearing Confederate flag gear until the administration listens to them.
On Friday, the day after the suspension of around 20 students for one day, an all-white group of students and supporters gathered outside the school to urge the administration to reconsider their ban. They believe the Confederate flag is a symbol of their Southern heritage and they should be allowed to display it if they so choose.
Although clothing depicting the flag was banned at the school after the 2001-2002 school year it was only this year that vehicles were banned from carrying the flag in the school parking lot, according to school district spokeswoman Brenda Drake. She added that clothing emblazoned with the flag was banned after the “flag was used to harass or intimidate others.”
“Our job is to maintain a safe and orderly environment in the school and a peaceful environment in the school,” Drake said, adding that the school policy regarding clothing emblazoned with the flag would remain and so would the ban on vehicles. “The ban was put in this specific case to help maintain that positive educational environment.”
Drake went on to say that several students who came to school on Friday wearing clothing emblazoned with the flag never entered the school but three who did removed the items before entering the building. She added that no students were suspended for dress code violations that day.
As several adults supporting the teens waved Confederate flags as students arrived at the school on Friday, 17-year-old senior Melanie Chrisley said, “We’re going to fight until we get our flag back.”
While 80-year-old resident of the town Roger Gallimore, who is white and has lived in Christiansburg most of his life, believes that the students are probably just trying to get attention, Bobbie Davis doesn’t feel the same way.
Gallimore, who owns several buildings downtown, said he doesn’t think the students should be causing so much fuss over the school’s ban of the Confederate flag. “If they were my kids, I probably wouldn’t want them doing that,” he said.
On the other hand, Davis, who is a black 55-year-old nurse, thinks the students have the right to wear whatever clothing they want. Speaking about the Charleston church massacre, she said “The flag didn’t kill the people. The person behind the gun killed the people.”