Rebel Yell

Armed with a Confederate flag, Jason Scott declared war on uptight high-school officials

Far from making him bend to authority, the suspension, if anything, has taught him a different lesson -- maybe a civics lesson.

"It's really troubling that he was punished for protesting," says Denise Lieberman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. "It's a symptom of the problems we've been seeing in this post-Columbine era, this crackdown on student expression, especially of issues that may be considered dissident, alternative or offensive. What he did was engage in a pure form of political protest, and unless it caused a material and substantial disruption to school activities, that's protected by the First Amendment."

But all the First Amendment protections in the world won't let Scott cruise the backroads around Lebanon and Carlyle -- his favorite haunts -- if his car isn't in good running order. He loves to work on that car, and the auto shop at the high school is his place to do that. "It's never been in a commercial shop," he says proudly. After high school, if this suspension doesn't pull him down, he wants to go to Wyoming Technical Institute in Laramie and get a degree in auto mechanics. "They specialize in high-performance work, and that's where I want to be, maybe even open my own shop some day."

Jason Scott with his pride and joy
Jason Scott with his pride and joy

Last week, the school softened its position, allowing Scott to return after only six days' suspension. Did he back down on his stance, so hard-fought? "They told me that I can cover them up," says Scott, "so I'm going to cover them up with signs that say, 'Support the First Amendment.'"

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