Idaho School Bans Confederate Flag On Student’s Car

by | Aug 25, 2015


We have previously discussed the ongoing controversy over the confederate flag as well as past cases of student speech being curtailed. This story combines those themes after Jordan Beattie, a student at Cossa Academy in Wilder, Idaho was banned from flying the confederate flag that his girlfriend had given him. He was told that the flag was interpreted to be a gang symbol.

Schools officials said that they found an image of the flag on a gang site used by the local police, but the Caldwell Police Department Gang Unit told the media that it was unsure as to where the school received that information. Caldwell Police Department Captain Frank Wyant said “We don’t look at the Confederate flag as a gang symbol. We don’t encourage anybody to take it down. Those are their rights and that’s what we’re here for is to protect and uphold those rights.”

Caldwell Police Department uses information from the Idaho gangs website, which lists the Confederate flag as an identifier of possible gang ties for “Aryan” gangs though it can also be simply a confederate heritage symbol.

I fail to see the basis for the decision. This is clearly not being used as a gang symbol and anyone with a Confederate flag could be similarly barred because some group happens to sometimes incorporate the symbol. It is also a symbol used by others for cultural or historical identification.

We have previously discussed cases where students were punished for displaying the Confederate flag, including cases involving flags on cars. There is a growing presumption against student free speech, particularly when it comes to unpopular or divisive symbols. This extends in this case and earlier cases to symbols on cars in a parking lot — outside the school building or classrooms. I find that troubling from a free speech perspective.

What do you think?

Reprinted with permission from author’s blog.


  • Jonathan Turley

    Professor Jonathan Turley is a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law. He has written over three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals at Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Northwestern, University of Chicago, and other schools.

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