Court Allows Penalty for Flag Sketch

Monday, October 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Kansas youth suspended from school for three days after he drew a picture of a Confederate flag lost a Supreme Court appeal Monday.

The court, without comment, turned away arguments that the suspension violated the youth's freedom of speech and other constitutionally protected rights.

T.J. West was a seventh-grader at Derby Middle School in Derby, Kan., when in spring 1998 he made a 4-by-6-inch sketch of the Confederate flag during a math class. West later told his assistant principal a friend had urged him to draw the flag, and that he knew what it was but not what it meant.

West also knew drawing the flag violated a ``racial harassment and intimidation'' policy the school district had adopted after incidents of racial tension in 1995. The policy banned, among other things, students from possessing ``any written material, either printed or in their own handwriting, that is racially divisive or creates ill will or hatred.''

Confederate flags were specifically listed as such material.

During the racial tensions at Derby High School and the middle school in 1995, at least one fight had broken out as a result of a student wearing a Confederate flag headband.

During that time, the Aryan Nation held a recruiting drive directly across the street from Derby High School and the Ku Klux Klan distributed literature to students near the high school.

West and his father challenged the boy's suspension from school, but a federal trial judge and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the school district.

The appeals court, in its ruling last March, noted that West had been suspended earlier that school year for calling another student ``blackie'' and had been reminded at that time about the harassment and intimidation policy.

The case is West v. Derby Unified School District No. 260, 99-2039.


On the Net: For the appeals court ruling: and click on 10th Circuit.