CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. — Protests continued Friday over a western Virginia high school’s ban on Confederate flags displayed on clothing and cars, but no more students were suspended for the violating the policy and one student said he’s considering legal action.
A group of roughly 40 people, including Christiansburg High School students and their supporters, gathered near the school Friday morning and flew Confederate flags from their cars and trucks. They called on the administration to reverse its policy a day after roughly 20 students were sent home for refusing to take off their Confederate flag gear before entering the school.
“We’re going to fight until we get our flag back,” said 17-year-old Melanie Chrisley, a senior.
Clothing emblazoned with the flag was banned at the high school in the small Virginia town just after the 2001-2002 school year, school district spokeswoman Brenda Drake said Friday. There were several racially-motivated fights and altercations that year, in which the “flag was used to harass or intimidate others,” she said.
A new policy this fall also bars students from having the flag on their vehicles in the school parking lot.
Drake said no students were suspended Friday for dress code violations. Three students, who came to school wearing clothing displaying the flag, removed the items before entering the building, she said. Other students never came into the school, but Drake couldn’t say how many.
Before classes began Friday, senior Houston Miller said he’s considering a lawsuit against the school. Miller has been leading the fight against the bans and said he will continue his efforts until the administration backs down. Several adults supporting the teens waved Confederate flags as students arrived at the school Friday and the group said it would be back Monday.
Drake said the administration is standing by its policy.
“Our job is to maintain a safe and orderly environment in the school and a peaceful environment in the school,” she said. “The ban was put in this specific case to help maintain that positive educational environment.”
Christiansburg, a predominantly white town of about 21,000 in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is home to many who work at nearby Virginia Tech. Of the 1,100 students at Christiansburg High School, 83 percent are white and 8 percent are black, state data show.
Confederate symbols have come under increased public scrutiny since the June 17 massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Dylann Roof, the white man charged in the killings, had posed for online photos holding the Confederate battle flag.
In downtown Christiansburg, some residents said Friday they had no strong feelings either way about the Confederate flag. Roger Gallimore, who has lived in Christiansburg most of his life, said he doesn’t think it’s appropriate for the students to be causing so much trouble over the policy. The 80-year-old who owns several buildings downtown said he feels like the teens are just trying to get attention.
“If they were my kids, I probably wouldn’t want them doing that,” he said.