ROMNEY WORDSWORTH – High school student Noah Leech of Plum, Pennsylvania, who wore a hoodie that featured the Confederate battle flag in its design, got him suspended from his high school.
Noah Leech says he’s worn the hoodie to class dozens of times, but this week, it prompted complaints, leading to his dismissal from school Friday.
“They basically told me I have to go home, and there is a possibility I may be expelled for wearing my hoodie to school,” Leech said.
The student says the flag isn’t racist and instead represents his family’s heritage.
“Our bloodline comes from West Virginia. They were helping move slaves from the South into the North under the Confederate flag, so that’s what I stand for,” Leech said.
Several students and parents see the issue differently, particularly since Leech’s suspension caused others to drive cars draped with the Confederate flag through campus.
One of Leech’s classmates, Desiree Ulmer, says she wasn’t offended by the hoodie but instead by students’ response to the incident.
“I had no problem with the kid wearing it at first because I never see the kid. The kid never affected me in any type of way, but when more people decided to come to school wearing the Confederate flag, at that point, it was like, ‘OK, this is getting a little too disrespectful for me,’” Ulmer said.
Leech says that in spite of his suspension, he won’t stop wearing the hoodie.
“I’m sorry that I’ve ever offended anyone about it, but I’m going to continue to wear my hoodie and support what I support,” he said. The school district has gone back and forth on the issue in the past. Initially, they said Confederate flag clothing was okay but then decided to ban it.
Schools have long been recognized as an arm of the government (local and state) and they love to claim governmental immunities when it suits them. But that also makes them subject to obeying the First Amendment, unlike a private institution. This principle was established decades ago by the U.S. Supreme Court, applying the Bill of Rights to the States with respect to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Therefore the actions of the school are wrong, and violate the student’s First Amendment Rights. There is no First Amendment exception on the basis of being offended. This is known as the “heckler’s veto”, and the idea that the government can curtail free speech just because it is unpopular with a majority of the public has been firmly rejected.
The school can only reasonably curtail free speech if it can make a case that the speech HAS ACTUALLY caused a disturbance to the order and safety of the student body, or has caused violence, or the risk of violence is imminent. This school has not done so. There is also the issue of the school having waived its right to limit this particular expression of speech, based on the school’s failure to object on prior occasions when the student wore the same hoodie.
There is also the matter of the terms of peace given by Lincoln to the Confederates, to wit, that they would be able to retain their uniforms, flags, banners, and even their weapons, and would be free to maintain and build cemeteries and monuments. As an arm of the government, every school in the land is bound by Federal Treaty. The peace terms agreed to by Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Virginia, and accepted by Lincoln, act as a Federal pre-emption of any State of local governmental action to the contrary.
Unfortunately, in the recent flurry to tear down Confederate monuments and erase our history, no one on either side has addressed the issue of Federal Treaty Pre-emption.