Look Away! Look Away!
A Farmington, MO teenager and his family are fighting to wear Confederate symbols to school:
A legal skirmish may be brewing over the Confederate battle flag being displayed on a cap and T-shirts that a student wore last month to Farmington High School.
The freshman student was suspended and then withdrew from school.
His family is preparing to challenge the suspension, through legal action if necessary, an attorney for the family said Tuesday.
The student, Bryce Archambo, 14, of Farmington, was suspended from school for a day on Sept. 28 after a physical education teacher told school administrators that he was offended by the Confederate flag and accompanying slogan, "Rebel Pride," on his clothing.
Farmington is a city of 16,000 in St. Francois County, about 65 miles south of St. Louis. Farmington High has about 1,200 students.
Bryce Archambo said Tuesday in a telephone interview that school administrators told him not to wear the cap and T-shirts to school any more because they were offensive and disruptive. Bryce's father, Marc Archambo, called the school and told administrators that his son had the legal right to wear those articles of clothing, the youth said. Marc Archambo removed his son from the school and has been home-schooling him, Bryce Archambo said.
Students elsewhere have been punished for wearing Confederate symbols in school, and the courts often have upheld a school district's right to keep order. A Belleville East High School senior got an eight-day suspension in 2001 after refusing to cover Confederate flag stickers on his car while it was being worked on in the school's automotive shop.
The Archambo family has hired lawyer Robert Herman of St. Louis to challenge the suspension. Herman has experience defending free-speech issues in area courts. He has represented the Ku Klux Klan, among other groups, on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Herman said Missouri law bars school officials from ordering students to remove clothing, emblems or insignia that are "worn in a manner that does not promote disruptive behavior."
Bryce Archambo said he merely wore the cap and T-shirts and did nothing that was disruptive.
Superintendent W.L. Sanders of the Farmington School District replied, "It is our position that principals have the authority to prohibit any emblem or symbol that they deem disruptive to the operation of the schools."
Bryce Archambo said he viewed the flag as a symbol of his family's Southern ancestry and not as something racist or offensive.
I wonder if a wary judiciary will throw the case out instead of taking a stand, given that the Archambos have withdrawn their son from attendance in the district? It's a common tactic --remember the infamous Pledge of Allegiance case?
I remember long ago as a child I went to Six Flags Over Texas --back when it was THE only Six Flags-- and purchased a replica of a Confederate "Stars and Bars" flag. After all, one side of my family was from the South, so I hung it up in my room. Once I realized exactly what it stood for, I got rid of it. Venerating your ancestors is one thing. Venerating your ancestors' mistakes is another. Venerating a potent symbol of the Klan is yet another thing-- sure, the swastika was an innocent ancient Native American symbol once, too.
It sounds as though the argument being made by the family and its representatives is that he is being oppressed for merely publicly claiming his "heritage." After careful examination, I have never found any reputable hypothesis that "Southerner" or "Rebel" is an ethnicity. Would Mr. Archambo's family like to see minority kids in their school wearing shirts with the slogan "White Devils?" The connotation of the Confederate flag is one of intimidation and torture, for depriving one group of people of freedom for the comfort and enrichment of another group. If he and his family don't see that, then perhaps they could use a little education.