Sixth Circuit upholds Tennessee school ban on wearing Confederate flag

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a district court's grant of summary judgment to a Tennessee public high school in a lawsuit brought by three students who claimed the school's ban on wearing the Confederate flag [university course backgrounder] violated their First Amendment, Equal Protection, and Due Process rights under the US Constitution. The students had argued that they wanted to wear the flag on their clothing to express their pride in their southern heritage. The Sixth Circuit carefully limited its holding in the case:

We caution, however, that our decision today does not establish a precedent justifying a school’s ban on student speech merely because other students find that speech offensive: we simply hold that the school’s dress code as applied to ban the Confederate flag is constitutional because of the disruptive potential of the flag in a school where racial tension is high and serious racially motivated incidents, such as physical altercations or threats of violence, have occurred.
The court reasoned that there was no First Amendment violation because "the school reasonably forecast that images of the Confederate flag would substantially and materially disrupt the school environment," held that the Equal Protection guarantee was not infringed because "the dress code’s ban on racially divisive symbols" satisfied intermediate scrutiny, and determined that the students had forfeited their Due Process claim by not sufficiently developing it. AP has more.

In 2003, the Fourth Circuit [official website] upheld [JURIST report] the dismissal of a suit filed by Matthew Dixon, a man who was fired for displaying Confederate flag stickers at work [New York Times report]. South Carolina's Coburn Dairy, Inc. fired Dixon for continuing to display the stickers on his toolbox after a black co-worker complained. Dixon argued that the company violated his First Amendment rights and state employment laws, but the company maintained that Dixon was fired because he violated the company's harassment policy.

 

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