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Posted by on Aug 17, 2008 in Society | 15 comments

High School dress codes: the Confederate flag & the boy in the hot pink boots

Can High Schools enforce dress codes? Or do dress codes violate the teenage students’ free speech rights? Let’s consider the following two cases…

David Shraub points to the case of the Knoxville, TN, area teen suspended for wearing the Confederate flag:

“This case is about much more than Tom Defoe.”

That statement by Defoe’s attorney Wednesday was the one thing on which he and his courtroom opponent agree in the legal battle over the Anderson County school system’s quarter-century-old ban on the display of the Confederate flag.

It was 18-year-old Defoe who was suspended from Anderson County High School in 2006 after repeatedly refusing, albeit politely, to take off or cover a T-shirt and belt buckle bearing the Rebel battle flag. It was Defoe who has been sitting at the table in U.S. District Court this week as the plaintiff in a lawsuit that labels the ban an unconstitutional violation of the teenager’s right to free speech.

If you are inclined to believe he should be able to wear his t-shirt and belt buckle would you then also say he should be free to show up in hot pink knee-length boots?

The family of the murdered Oxnard, CA, gay cross-dressing teen, Lawrence King, will be suing their son’s school claiming the school didn’t enforce its dress code:

The boy’s parents, Dawn and Gregory King, along with his younger brother, Rocky King, are seeking unspecified damages related to the fatal shooting of the 15-year-old boy as he sat in English class at E.O. Green School on Feb. 12. …

In the claims, the Kings say school and county staff members failed to enforce the middle school’s dress code.

That put the feminine-dressing King at particular risk at a time when staff members knew he had “unique vulnerabilities” and was “susceptible to abuse” because of his perceived sexual orientation, the claim says. …

King had told friends he was gay, and he wore makeup, jewelry and high-heeled boots with his school uniform — something Dannenberg said the teen had the freedom to do under his First Amendment rights.

The school’s dress code prevents students from wearing articles of clothing considered distracting. Much broader — and thus more likely to survive a court challenge? — than the specific Confederate flag ban in Tennessee.

My own thought is that dress codes for kids are fine. I see us demanding that schools do more and more of our parenting, so we shouldn’t take away their tools.

For those following the case of Brandon McInerney (the teen who shot King), he entered a not guilty plea last week. The judge has ruled that his lawyers may view records documenting King’s behavior.

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  • elrod

    This is obviously a big story around here. What I find amazing is that most people think the kid is a loser and the school should have the right to tell kids what they can wear. I thought for sure that the “South’s a-risin’ agin” crowd would jump to his defense. Never mind that Anderson County was almost unanimously pro-Union during the Civil War…

  • StockBoySF

    The Confederate Flag is a symbol of racism and hatred- is Defoe a racist or has racist tendencies? He might very well have been wearing the Confederate Flag for other purposes, such as to raise awareness…. (though I doubt it, but I’d like to know why he wanted to wear it before jumping to conclusions).

    Lawrence King’s parents are nuts…. I’m sorry that they lost their son to a hate crime, but that’s the real crime here and Brandon McInerney will be prosecuted accordingly. If Lawrence King had been asked to adhere to the dress code he might very well have claimed that his free speech rights were violated….

    My heart goes out to him (when he was still alive) and his parents- it’s tough being gay and most if not all teenagers rebel- this is the time people discover themselves. King obviously was able to withstand whatever remarks his fellow students made about his outfits (high school students can be mean). But no one can withstand bullets. I think the school did the right thing in allowing King to express himself in a way he felt comfortable with.

    If the parents didn’t like his outfits, then why did they allow him to buy and wear them? By blaming the school the parents seem to be shifting the blame and not handling his death very well. The blame is solely on the person who shot King.

    By the way, I went to a private Catholic high school and we had to wear these absolutely stupid uniforms. We tried everything to express ourselves. I even dyed my hair- I went from a toe head to jet black. There wasn’t anything in the school dress code that mentioned dying hair… I’ll tell you what, when I looked in the mirror after I dyed my hair, I could not believe it…. I was a completely different person and I suddenly didn’t know myself… I really learned a lot from that experience and after a couple days of (not) getting used to my new look I went to a hairdresser and had him remove the dye. This was back in the early 80’s and Duran Duran was a big hit on the new station- MTV so I had a Duran Duran type hair do (with my natural blond color). That I could live with, but after a while that fad passed, too. Now I’m lucky to find more than ten hairs on my head (not quite, but I’m fast approaching that).

    So I totally support King’s school for allowing King to try different looks. If he had lived, one of these days King would have hit upon a look that he felt most comfortable with.

  • TFetner

    Banning Confederate symbols is simply hatred. These symbols actually mean something to people with Sothern heritage and you are telling them their feelings do not count as much as another groups – is racist. I am sure there are no black symbols that ar banned nor will they be for fear of racism accusations.
    The NAACP passed a resolution to erase all confederate symbols.
    Seems like they might since everyone is scared to fight them for fear of what “racism”. People are sick of this kind of disrespect and damn wekk should be. No ban. No issue. Move on.

  • RememberNovember

    Banning Confederate symbols is simply hatred. These symbols actually mean something to people with Sothern heritage and you are telling them their feelings do not count as much as another groups – is racist.

    If by meaning something like slave-owning seperatism, then it’s not racist. It’s seditional. Heritage my ass. When your heritage is based off the blood sweat and tears of slavery, cry us a river. Maybe they should fly British flags instead, since many in the south were Royalists in Revolutionary times. That whole “South will rise again” is BS. Let it go already.

  • RememberNovember

    Reading that article puts knots in my stomach…if McNierney willfully shot King twice in the back of the head, that’s first degree murder. Point blank simple. He had motive, he had means. The fact that he’ll die in prison is not the issue. The issue is murder, not manslaughter. Man 1 is usually for homicide not directly intended. A double tap Stalin style is murder most foul. What did this kid King do? I say let the parents serve time as well.

  • gafftop


    What does Anderson County being pro-union during the WBTS have to do with banning the war Defoe wears? Perhaps his ancestor fought for the South are you going to have him deny his heritage????


    Well I see you are not a student of history. Who told you the Confederate Flag was a symbol of racism and hatred? Do you have any historical sources to back this up? Don’t try the KKK angle, their official flak is the Stars and Stripes. I find it amazing you can say this “So I totally support King’s school for allowing King to try different looks” but not support DeFoe in his quest for a different look.


    The North and blacks also owned slaves. There were more free blacks in the South than the North and the North had strict blacks codes preventing free blacks from living in the north. The North’s early economic wealth was based on the slave trade To bad you haven’t a clue about history. You may want to start at the American Revolution that way you won’t be making stupid statements like “since many in the south were Royalists.” Well how many is many? Many in the North were also Royalist too. Isn’t it true the revolution was won in the South? Check your history. Why should we let it go when you won’t???

    You folks really need to sit down and do some serious reading about American history. I have never in my life came across such misinformed statements.

    George Purvis

    • StockBoySF


      I did not say that I did not support Defoe in his “quest” for a different look. In fact I specifically said in the two sentences that I devoted to Defoe, “but I’d like to know why he wanted to wear it before jumping to conclusions.” So stop putting words into my mouth and distorting what I clearly did not say. I see you distort my words to fit your purpose the way you distort people’s feelings on the Confederate Flag so you can believe something that isn’t true and support your Southern Heritage organization.

      As far as the Confederate Flag not being a symbol of racism and hatred (and me being uninformed)… if the Confederate Flag is not then what is all the fuss about? Not only about this case but about all the other cases of Southern States wanting to fly the Confederate Flag? Don’t try to give me that crap, “I see you are not a student of history.” Many people do see the Confederate Flag as a symbol of racism and hatred.

      I will say that the Confederate Flag is part of the heritage of the South, but it’s not a very positive image.

  • StockBoySF

    RememberNovember, I agree with you. Thanks.

  • gafftop


    It is true you did not say you say you didn’t support Defoe, you just questioned his motives; however you said this about King “So I totally support King’s school for allowing King to try different looks.” Quiet a bit difference in the statements and their meaning won’t you say? No distortion there just copied from your response. Besides Defoe was only wearing a belt buckle, while King was going pretty far out on the edge with his outfit. Now which one is likely to be more distracting in a school environment? Don’t know about anyone else but I am not in the habit of checking out what belt buckle a fellow is wearing. Tell me how I can distort other person’s feelings. I didn’t know I had that magical power. SHAPE is based on finding the truth, promoting the truth, by using historical facts and educating those whose minds are open enough to accept the truths and facts. You are most welcome to challenge anyone or anything posted to the SHAPE forums as long as you do it in a civil manner. You may also want to check out our “articles” section which has some excellent sourced articles by some well educated submitters. Anyway, we welcome anyone of any race or religion who is willing to follow our rules and become an active member. Our door is always open.

    So tell me why you think the CBF is a symbol of racism and hatred? Who told you that? The fuss is all about uninformed, biased prejudiced people who has made it a goal top remove the CBF from all public view. It is a state right to decide what flag to fly. Here in Mississippi we voted, the good folks of Georgia and South Carolina did not get that chance, sort of takes away from the meaning of “freedom” doesn’t it? In South Carolina a compromise was reached with the NAACP and now they do not want to honor their end of the barging. Many people do not see it as a symbol of racism.

    Not only that but names, such as Lee, Jackson, Forrest and Stonewall. Do you know blacks fought for the South, the CBF never flew over one slave ship, not one person was ever enslaved under the CBF, the Confederate Constitution went farther in banning slavery than the US Constitution, The War For Southern Independence WAS NOT over slavery, several Southern states had tried to ban slavery before 1800? Just a few things you can check out. Do you have any idea some of the baggage the US flag carries? Let’s take a look, most slaves came to the US under the United States Flag, under the US flag black and white American women, children and old men were murdered, raped and tortured, the Native Americans were nearly wiped out under the US flag, the Japanese Americans were imprisoned and the Jim Crow laws were enforced. Now which flag represents racism and hatred??? Integration of the armed forces took a presidential act by Franklin Roosevelt; the Confederate army was integrated with all races and religions serving side by side. By the way I can see you are not a student of history or you would know these things

    You are entitled to your opinion; however it is not the opinion of MOST people living in the South.

    George Purvis

    • StockBoySF

      George, there you go again, trying to minimize the wearing of a Confederate Flag- Defoe was wearing a belt buckle AND a T-Shirt with the Confederate Flag. You also appear to be shifting blame to King (and away from the shooter) because he was wearing something distracting. The last time I checked civilized people did not go around murdering people because they didn’t like what they wore. I’m sure some people would find some of your clothes appalling (and I’m sure my taste in clothes is not shared by everyone either). But I don’t expect to be murdered. And I don’t expect you to be murdered and I don’t expect anyone else to be murdered if they want to wear hot pink boots, a diamond tiara and a green leotard (or whatever outfit they want to wear).

      The Confederate Flag is a symbol of racism and hatred to many folks. To wear can be a source of intimidation to some.

    • StockBoySF

      George, wow, you do get passionate about your flag. But the truth remains that the Confederate flag was a symbol of racism and Southerners died under the Confederate flag fighting for the right to own slaves.

      Many people still see the Confederate flag in those terms.

      Now, don’t get me wrong- the South has a lot to be proud of, both historically and today. But symbols are very powerful and the Confederate flag still remains a powerful symbol that many people believe is racist and hate.

      As far as the US flag… when our nation was founded and the constitution penned, it was seen as an organic and living document which would inevitably change over time. Many of the Founding Fathers were from the southern states and it was due to their influence that the issue of slavery was left unresolved in the US Constitution.

      Our country has evolved over the centuries to the great nation today. And it still has its problems.

      I think every culture in the world and every nation in this world has used slavery and/or oppression of others to advance their own interests.

      The US flag, as imperfect as our country has been, is seen as a symbol of freedom. The Confederate flag was flown by the southern states wanting the right to own slaves.

      I have found that oppressors are more than happy with their symbols and don’t believe there is anything wrong with the display of such symbols, whether the symbols are swastikas, nooses (particularly in certain parts of the country), flags, etc. But when those symbols still continue to be used by people who have been oppressors in the past and those symbols continue to oppress other people (whether intentionally or unwittingly) then a free, just and civil society can not flourish.

      The display of the Confederate flag is not about freedom of speech. The display of the Confederate flag is about one group of people who historically have been oppressors continuing to foster an environment of oppression.

      As I said the South has much to be proud of, it has a rich history that has contributed (and continues to contribute) mightily and positively to the US. I am not anti-South and the Civil War (as horrible, painful and evil as it was) was absolutely essential to get us to where we are today as a great nation. I think many people believe the Civil War was the fault of the South, but I think both the North and the South were responsible. But out of that war the Confederate flag came to represent to the oppressed people their very oppression. That continues to this day.

  • gafftop

    So??? Just telling the truth. A t-shirt and a belt buckle is hardly anything to get all upset about. Actually I said King was more of a distraction in the classroom than Defoe, I never mentioned the shooter one way or the other. Slow down, read and understand what I am writing, don’t be so anxious to reply.

    The Confederate flag is a symbol of pride and heritage to many folks. To be forced not to wear it is trampling on the rights of those who wish to display this heritage and pride. If we wore makeup and pink high heel boots would that make it OK???

    Do you have any real facts to discuss or are you just going to throw out general biased, prejudiced, quotes to me? That sort of stuff just originates with the ignorant and un-informed who mostly have nothing better to do than spread their own brand of hate.

    Have a Dixie day.

    George Purvis

  • gafftop

    Really, show me proof the South was fighting solely for the purpose of owning slaves. The South was fighting an invading army, fighting for their homeland and their very lives. The cause of the war at its very basic reason is ownership of federal property in the South. Treaties were already in place and negotiations were supposed to be underway until Major Anderson moved his troops from Moultrie to Sumter. That my friend is what the war was all about, not slavery at all, that is fact. Sorry to rock your world.

    Many people are can be wrong can’t they? Do you know that this sort of thing only became “fashion” in the last 20 years or so? It is the goal of the NAACP to remove anything Confederate from public view. Do you know that without the black vote the Mississippi flag would have been changed for sure? It is only a vocal minority (white & black) that screams for the banning of the CBF. Think about that and then tell me about hate and racism.

    You are back to the same old same old, can you do better I think we have already addressed the “many people” quotation a time or two.

    I believe that all states were equally represented in the early days of the founding of our country. So how do you lay the blame for slavery at the feet of the Southern men? Do you have any sources that prove your statements? At that time the only Southern States were Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia. Hardly a majority. Could it be the New England Slave traders didn’t want slavery abolished? Do you know whites and Indians in those days? Suggested reading “A TRUE ESTIMATE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN & Vindication of the South, by Mildred Lewis Rutherford” Ch 4; Pg. 37 thru 48 found in the articles section of the SHAPE website.

    I repeat myself; the war was not over slavery. The Confederate flag had nothing to do with slavery, slavery was legal throughout the entire United states, the Confederate constitution went father in banning slavery than the US constitution, Lincoln did not free any slave, West Virginia was admitted to the Union well after the start of the war as a slave state, and finally Lincoln offered the South a chance to return to the Union and KEEP their slaves. Now why didn’t the South take that offer??? BECAUSE IT WASN”T ABOUT SLAVERY!!!!

    You made a study. I question just how accurate it is, using you faulty history as an example of your research abilities. Don’t you know slavery was practiced in the North also? You want to compare the CBF with the Nazi flag, give it your best shot. I will make the same comparison with the US flag and only offer one thing — the Native Americans. Had you rather I make this comparison only in the WBTS???

    No the War For Southern Independence was not essential. It was forced on the South by Lincoln and his administration. It was a war to subject a free an independent nation to the will of a stronger nation. Nothing more nothing less. Out of that war came the Confederate flag which represents a rising up against tyranny and oppression, is a symbol pride, honor, valor, and dedication to ones homeland for millions of Americans of all races creeds and color.

    George Purvis

  • gafftop

    Well it looks like I am left here by myself again. I am gonna have to learn to not post so much true history. Anyone wqanting to discusssomething with me can find me at the SHAPE website as posted below.

    Have a Dixie day ya’ll.

    George Purvis

  • I disagree on that High School dress code, there nothing bad about what clothes did the high school student want to wear.Beside clothes did not affect their study, they only having a good looks and a hot pink boots for the boys are you kidding.

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