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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Students Fight to Wear Confederate Flag Shirts; Nixa Schools Keep Ban, Cite Past Racism

Posted By on Tue, May 14, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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Collin Snider. - COURTESY OF JODIE SNIDER.
  • Courtesy of Jodie Snider.
  • Collin Snider.

"He should be able to honor his brother," says Snider, who says the two boys were very close.

When he showed up with the flag shirt, the school sent Collin home, she says. "We felt like the school went way overboard."

Nixa School officials say they maintain a strict policy that these flags are not allowed on campus.

COURTESY OF JODIE SNIDER.
  • Courtesy of Jodie Snider.

Why is this flag important to her son's memory?

"It's Dukes of Hazzard-style stuff," she says, explaining that they like hunting, fishing, wearing cowboy boots and "being rednecks."

"That's just the way they are," says Snider, who also has a nine-year-old daughter and toddler boy. "They don't believe in hurting other people."

Snider spoke at a school board meeting last week, but the policy is not changing. Snider says she is going to remain active fighting this and next anniversary, her son will wear the shirt again -- and skip school if necessary.

click to enlarge COURTESY OF JODIE SNIDER.
  • Courtesy of Jodie Snider.

Quoting her son and mentioning the fact that "It's okay to be gay" shirts are allowed in schools, she adds, "Why do I have to be tolerant of everyone else's view and no one has to be tolerant of mine?"

Rantz's statement explains that in this category, schools ban confederate flags and swastikas. "While students' rights are limited in schools, they do have certain free speech rights. So, just because something is offensive does not mean it is banned. When the symbol is used in a way that threatens students and it results in a material and substantive disruption to the educational environment where students are afraid to come to school, then it is not allowed."

Here's a video interview with the family, followed by the full school response.

Here's the statement from Nixa school officials:

The policy was developed after the confederate battle flag was used in various racial incidents. This policy first stemmed from events that occurred in the mid-1990's and has been reaffirmed by boards since that time because the confederate battle flag has continued to be used in racial threats against students.

At that time non-white families in the Nixa area were harassed both inside and outside of the school. Lockers were defaced, threats were made, signs were posted over water fountains, nooses were hung from rearview mirrors, an effigy hung by a noose was dangled from a bridge, people would drive around Nixa with the confederate battle flags in their vehicles and would harass minorities, and ultimately many families who were being harassed and threatened chose to leave Nixa. It was even worn at various school sporting events, which caused racial tension with other schools.

This harassment has continued in various forms and has even occurred this school year, which is why the policy has been reaffirmed to this date....

Because the confederate battle flag was used in threats against students in Nixa Public Schools, it was deemed "racially inflammatory." Because it is still being used in that manner, the flag has continued to carry that definition....

The are the only two [potentially inciteful/disruptive symbols] that have been prohibited (confederate battle flag and swastika) at this time. Just because something is offensive does not mean it is not banned from the school district. While students' rights are limited in schools, they do have certain free speech rights. So, just because something is offensive does not mean it is banned. When the symbol is used in a way that threatens students and it results in a material and substantive disruption to the educational environment where students are afraid to come to school, then it is not allowed. So, if a symbol would meet those criteria in Nixa Public Schools, the district would add it to the list.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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