Sixth Circuit: Tennessee school's Confederate flag display ban does not violate the First Amendment

Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit handed down a decision upholding a Tennessee school’s ban on sporting Confederate flag-emblazoned clothing.  The plaintiff, a student named William Defoe, claimed that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was sent home and suspended for insubordination for wearing a Confederate flag-emblazoned T-shirt and belt buckle, which, allegedly, were merely expressions of his pride in his southern heritage (Ever hear that one before?).  A district court judge tossed Defoe’s suit last year via summary judgment.  The Sixth Circuit panel held that “the dress code’s provision banning displays of racially divisive symbols, and its application to the Confederate flag, is narrowly tailored to the state and school district’s substantial interest in educating students in the public school system,” given evidence of racial tensions and violence at Defoe’s school.  Concurring, Judge John Rogers wrote, “A plainly reasonable interpretation of a Confederate flag T-shirt or jacket is one of racial hostility or contempt, regardless of the subjective intent of the wearer.”

Check out the AP article here.

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Jon is a 3L at HLS. Originally from Philadelphia, PA., Jon made his way to Cambridge via NYC and a brief trip back to Philadelphia. In NYC, he studied at Columbia University, where he earned a B.A. in Modern American History and Human Rights. He hung around NYC for a couple of years, most notably working as an Investigator for the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board, which employs non-police investigators to investigate complaints of police misconduct. After his six year stint in NYC, Jon returned to Philly and worked at Community Legal Services in its Public Benefits and Welfare Law Unit. Since beginning law school, Jon has worked at the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Defenders for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the National ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, the ACLU of Massachusetts, and Harvard's Predatory Lending and Consumer Protection Legal Services Clinic. This summer, he will be working in the Trial Unit of the Public Defender Service of D.C.

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