(CN) – Citing a history of racial tension, the 5th Circuit upheld a high-school dress code in Texas barring students from displaying the Confederate flag.
Burleson High School adopted the policy in response to more than 50 race-related incidents since 2002, including a fight that broke out before a basketball game between BHS students and fans of a predominantly black high school. The state high-school athletics governing body considered sanctions against BHS, because the school was “identified [as] having a reputation … as being openly hostile to African-Americans; if not simply racist.”
In another incident, a BHS student drew a noose and made comments about hanging minorities.
Despite the flag ban, two students in 2006 carried purses to school bearing large images of the Confederate flag.
School administrators told them to leave the purses in the office until school was out, but the girls chose to go home rather than comply with the demand.
They filed suit, claiming the ban violated their First and 14th Amendment rights.
The New Orleans-based federal appeals court leaned on precedent in upholding the ban, saying the Supreme Court allows such bans if there’s evidence that a type of speech will likely disrupt school activities.
“[T]he racial tension and hostility at the school justified defendants’ ban on visible displays of the Confederate flag in this case,” Judge Dennis wrote.
The judge added that the state has a legitimate interest in maintaining discipline and order in public schools.
The appellate panel affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment to the school district’s board of trustees and BHS principal Paul Cash.