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Public School Racism Today: A Thank You To Judge Jean Hamilton

August 16, 2007

The Honorable Jean C. Hamilton, U.S. District Court Judge for Eastern Missouri and a St. Louis native, did her part to help stamp out racism – and unapologetic idiocy – in my state of birth last week. How? Her actions are explained in the following excerpts from a Student Press Law Center story, authored by Michael Beder (first brought to my attention by HNN):

– “A federal district court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by three high school students who were punished for wearing Confederate symbols to school.”
– “Farmington High School student Bryce Archambo wore a hat in September with a picture of the Confederate flag and the words ‘C.S.A., Rebel Pride, 1861.’ School officials made him take off the hat, but Archambo returned the next day wearing a T-shirt and belt buckle with a Confederate flag image and the words ‘Dixie Classic.’ “
– “He was sent home. … He filed suit against the school district in November [2006].”
– “In January [2007], two other students … also were punished for wearing clothes that contained Confederate images and statements of support for Archambo. Both students joined the suit in March. All three students argued that wearing the Confederate flag is protected expression under the First Amendment.”
– “Officials from the school district argued that the clothes violated the school’s dress code, which bans “[d]ress that materially disrupts the educational environment.” That language mirrors the legal standard set in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, a 1969 Supreme Court ruling that prohibits public school administrators from suppressing student expression unless the expression would materially disrupt school operations or invade the rights of others.”
– “In dismissing the suit, U.S. District Judge Jean C. Hamilton ruled it was reasonable for Farmington administrators to fear that allowing the students to wear images of the Confederate flag would increase racial tensions and thus materially disrupt the school environment.”
– “The decision took note of several racially motivated incidents in the school district the previous year.”
1. “In May 2005 a white student urinated on a black student — allegedly saying “that is what black people deserve” — while two other white students watched.”
2. “One black Farmington High School student’s family moved out of the district after several confrontations in September 2005 between the black student and several white Farmington students, including a fight at the black student’s home.”
3. “Two months later [Nov. ’05], a fight broke out at a basketball game between Farmington and Festus Senior High School after Farmington players allegedly directed racial slurs at two black Festus players.”

What was Judge Hamilton’s final summary? “Against this backdrop, the Court cannot conclude that Defendants banned the Confederate flag because of nothing more than ‘undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance.’ “

Based on recent history, I hope that security is tight for Judge Hamilton. We need no more scenarios such as those that played out in 2005 with Chicago’s U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow.

In the meantime, thank you Judge Hamilton! It takes courage to rule in these cases when history is considered.

Afterthought: I noted that Judge Hamilton was a student at Wellesley in the mid to late 1960s. I wonder if she knew Hillary Clinton? – TL

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  1. Anonymous permalink

    I don't see any evidence of racism, but I do see the failure to uphold the 1st Amendment. Misinformation is the biggest driver of any incidents of this sort and they should be confronted. One wonders what will be the next political target in today's sterile world – maybe President Bush lapel pins? Dennis Kucinich stickers?

    This ruling represents the fascist nature of the “force you to do what I think is well-meaning” crowd. Pitiful.


  2. Mike N. permalink

    There is clearly evidence of racism here. The Confederate “Stars and Bars” flag alone is regarded as offensive by a large number of people myself included. The “heritage not hate” argument is simply a smokescreen for employing a symbol that embodies an American history of slavery and racism. Would a t-shirt emblazoned with a swastika be regarded as a legitimate expression of free speech? Probably not, especially if its wearer did so to incite people.

    Which leads me to my next point. Freedom of speech is not absolute. As the famous supreme court ruling went, “You cannot yell fire in a crowded theater.” Speech that incites others to violence, causes panic, or is clearly offensive to a significant number of people is not protected by the first amendment. The judge in this case also took into account the previous instances of racially motivated attacks on African Americans in the community as clear evidence that racism played a role.

    In conclusion, people can think whatever they want. But they cannot express whatever they want if it is highly offensive, violent, etc. It is important to be mindful of the past, of America's history of slavery and racism, and we should not celebrate the sins of history. Such commemoration is not a matter of right.


  3. Anonymous permalink

    Mike, I don't think the Confederate flag is offensive, and I'm not any more racist than the next individual. How do you explain? I'll tell you, my ancestors fought for the South in ACW, and I'll never let anyone denigrate their memory, so you are WAY out of line with your swastika analogy. You really need to look into parity among racial views held by whites ALL over America during that time. You'll see that racism wasn't just a regional issue. Given that, Confederates deserve just as much positive commemoration as any group of veterans this country has ever produced.

    Also, I'm pretty sure I have the right to display said flag in any manner I wish, in other words, it is not illegal anywhere. Individuals with your perverse view of the South's history only provide fuel for future confrontations and slow the development of racial harmony.


  4. Anonymous permalink

    Just recently my son wore a confederate flag belt buckle to school, remind you he has been wearing a hat for months now that has 2 lil' rebel flags on it. He has had no confrontations with anyone about this. until he wore the belt buckle with shirt tucked in which was the officer who is on school grounds at all times. which he told my son to take it off. Then an administrator of the school followed him thru-out the school to tell him that he needs to take off the belt buckle due to it meaning racism, my son said it doesnt mean racism the administrator said “I KNOW” but other people says it son refused again. The following day a white boy was throwing food at him at lunch and callin him and his friends a bunch of redneck p!!sies…After lunch my son and other students went to the office again and my son was told again to take it off or cover the belt buckle and was told that if he didnt take it off that they would. And that they would suspend him from school for talking back to the officer. (to me thats an excuse to suspend him for the confederate flag) BUT, listen to this most of his teachers and other teachers complement the confederate flag.
    My son had one of his friends wear his belt buckle to school the following day and guess what no one said anything to this boy for wearing it. So, are they targeting my son or are the targeting the confederate flag or is the administrators offended by the flag? I havent told my son not to wear it but i do not want him into any trouble but if other kids can wear playboy bunny shirts and pot leafs on their shirts or colored band danas, then why cant my son wear his confederate flag? I know the meaning behind the confederate flag. it is not racism, it was the hate groups that made it such a thing. Can anyone help me with some answers here?


  5. Confederate Patriot permalink

    The Confederate flag represents the history and heritage of our Confederate Veterans. I let my son wear a rebel flag shirt to school. But I bought him one that says “Heritage Not Hate” on the flag. No conflicts have occured from this. Even I have a full sized Confederate flag in my front yard with those words on it. I believe our founding fathers would be very disappointed at the 1st Amendment being broken over this. All over the country rebel flags are being removed(For Example:Georgia's State Flag, The South Carolina State Courthouse, and a new desighn for Mississippi's State Flag is being made. This is an outrage! I have been studying American History. These day the history books in schools are being rewritten and twisted by Yankees and other Historical Revisionists. The reason the the pilgrims left England was to be able to worship the God of the Christian religion. American had stayed far away form thier fathers standards. But the South was still firmly planted in worshiping God. The reason the south seceded was an exact repeat of the pilgrims. The Civil War was not about slavery. Redneck Southerners are not racist and the Confederate Flag stands for Freedom not hate.


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