by Hi's Eye staff, 2011-2012
Torri Albrecht, a 14 year-old from Melvin H. Kreps School in East Windsor, NJ was recently suspended after wearing a Confederate flag sweatshirt to school. She was not suspended for solely wearing the sweatshirt, but for refusing to comply with administrative demands. Albrecht and her mother consider the school’s actions a violation of Torri’s First Amendment rights. However, one must recognize. It must be recognized that certain school policies take precedent over freedom of expression.
Although it may seem that the Albrecht’s actions were protected, there are other factors to be taken into consideration, such as the feelings of other students, and fair consequences to all symbols of hate. The Tinker case dealt with a similar controversy over rights in which students wore armbands to school as a silent protest against the Vietnam War. In 1969 the Tinker case decided that students and faculty do not lose their First Amendment rights in school. However, about 20 years later, the Hazelwood case determined that the school need not tolerate student speech that deviates from its basic educational mission.
The Confederate flag is often perceived as a symbol of hate and racism, and is therefore a disruption to the school environment. Thus, the administrative actions of Melvin H. Kreps are appropriately protected by the jurisdiction of theHazelwood case.
Although Albrecht may not have intended to express anything but southern pride, it is within the administrator and faculty’s responsibility to ensure that all students feel welcome. To maintain this comfortable environment, Melvin H. Kreps’ policy clearly states that a student may be suspended for defiance. Albrecht was given the opportunity to take off the sweatshirt, and it was not until after she refused that disciplinary actions were taken.
As students, we recognize the importance of freedom of expression, but we also must recognize the limits. Upon entering the building, the faculty assumes the role of our parents, and we must respect their authority just as we would our parents at home. With this responsibility, the school must establish right and wrong, taking all individuals into consideration. Melvin H. Kreps successfully assumed their responsibility when handling this particular case of student expression.