Controversy surrounding the Confederate flag has been sweeping the nation, most recently in Lawrence.
A Free State High School senior who was displaying a Confederate flag on the back of his truck has been told he can no longer display the flag on school property.
“School building administrators have the discretion to deal with student issues on a case-by-case basis. Since it was disrupting the school’s learning environment, Free State High’s administration asked the student not to bring the flag back to campus,” said Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll in a statement emailed to 41 Action News.
The decision has prompted discussion in classrooms about the Confederate flag. Students told 41 Action News they were “surprised [the flag] became a big thing.”
“I’ve always seen a Confederate flag on his truck. I’ve always seen it on his or someone else’s. I have always seen a Confederate flag somewhere,” said Joshua Hunnel, a senior at Free State High.
While the Lawrence School District does not have a specific policy addressing Confederate flags, the student handbook includes a harassment and discrimination policy. This is true for other schools, including Olathe, KCK and Kansas City Public Schools.
“People have the right to say what they want and do what they want. Unfortunately, if it is perceived as harmful to others in a public setting, I can see why they would ask him not to do it,” said Jess Trent, who lives near the school.
According to the district, the senior has not been punished. On Friday, no Confederate flags could be seen on campus.
Here is Doll's full statement:
“Using tools learned through the Lawrence Public Schools’ racial equity work, Free State High staff continue to engage students in meaningful discussion prompted by a student’s display of the Confederate flag on a personal vehicle in the school parking lot. School staff see this issue as an educational opportunity for students and fully understand the school’s obligation to respect students’ free speech rights and protect students from racial discrimination and harassment, as the Confederate flag may be associated with racism, slavery and violence against African-Americans.
"School building administrators have the discretion to deal with student issues on a case-by-case basis. Since it was disrupting the school’s learning environment, Free State High’s administration asked the student not to bring the flag back to campus.
"This is not a student disciplinary issue.
"The Board of Education does not have a policy regarding the Confederate flag.”