About 20 students at a southwest Virginia high school were suspended on Thursday after wearing clothing emblazoned with the Confederate flag in violation of school policy, according to local media.
The suspensions at Christiansburg High School in Montgomery County follow new rules set by the school that also forbid students from displaying the battle flag used by the pro-slavery South during the U.S. Civil War on their cars and trucks.
Students have to sign a contract agreeing not to display the flag to receive a school parking pass.
WSLS-TV in Roanoke quoted a Montgomery County school spokeswoman as saying the Confederate flag was deemed offensive by school officials and that the suspensions were ordered as a result. The spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Display of the Confederate flag has been a contentious issue in Virginia and other parts of the South since a white gunman killed nine black worshipers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June.
The suspect charged in the slayings, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, confessed to the shootings saying he hoped to spark a race war, according to prosecutors. On Wednesday his attorneys offered to enter guilty plea if it would spare him a death sentence.
Roof was seen posing on social media with a Confederate flag before the shootings.
South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol grounds in July.
In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe ordered the removal of the Confederate flag from state-issued license plates.
A circuit court judge in Virginia’s Patrick County removed a portrait of a Confederate general from the courtroom in August.
“Confederate symbols are, simply put, offensive to African-Americans,” the judge, Martin Clark, said in a statement about the portrait.