Confederate Flag Dress Code on Trial in Federal Court

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The constitutionality of Anderson County school system’s long-standing dress code banning display of the Confederate flag was being tested today in a Knoxville federal courtroom.

It will be up to an all-white jury to decide if the free speech rights of Tom Defoe, then a senior at Anderson County High School, were violated by the ban on a flag that to some symbolize Southern heritage and to others racial hate.

There were no black jurors in the pool summoned to appear today in U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan’s courtroom. During jury selection, two people who expressed support of the display of the flag were booted off the panel as was a member of a Civil War club and an Alabama educator who acknowledged the flag “can inflame” others but “I don’t really know why blacks see it as a racist symbol.”

Defoe contends through attorney Van R. Irion that he is a descendant of a Civil War soldier who fought for the Confederacy.

In the fall of 2006, he wore to school a T-shirt with a Confederate flag, also known as the “Rebel” flag on it. He was ordered to either take it off or turn it inside out. He refused and was suspended. A few days later, he wore a belt buckle with the flag on it. He again refused to cover or remove it and again was suspended.

Irion told jurors in opening statements today that there was no racial strife at Anderson County High School, where there are only a handful of minority students, and no proof display of the Confederate flag was “disruptive” to the educational process...

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