A California student wore a Confederate flag sweatshirt to school, and his mother claims he’s the victim of racial bullying after classmates circulated a photo of him on social media with the caption “white power.”
The mother of the student pulled her son out of school on Friday after she said threats were made against him, the Visalia Times-Delta reported.
The student was not the one who posted the photo, according to his mother. She also said that she didn’t know the hashtag was being used and opposed it.
“The only reason the picture exploded was because of the hashtag used,” she said in an interview. “To me, this is ignorance. These people don’t know my son, he’s not racist.”
Principal Matt Shin said Friday afternoon, the student wearing the shirt was stopped by a group of students who questioned why he wore the shirt. An administration official saw the group and said that he would look into the issue and told students to go to class.
“In regard to dress code, with 2,300 students, we don’t always catch every kid,” Shin explained. “Before lunch, there were no reports to the office of any disruption to others.”
The principal then brought the student into his office where he swore he “wasn’t racist” and explained “he’s very much into the heritage of the south and has family there.” He then left school early for his own safety.
“The reason he wore what he wore is that the flag represents more than slavery, it represents a lot of other things,” said his mother. “He’s not being racist. Everyone learns history differently.”
“It doesn’t mean slavery, to him,” she swore, going on that to their family his sweatshirt means freedom and Constitutional rights.
The flag began being used in clothing in the 1940s and 1950s when the Dixiecrat Party stood in opposition to desegregation, said Professor Ethan Kytle of Fresno State University.
“Generally, student dress code is like language, it’s a free speech issue,” said Visalia Unified School District Superintendent Todd Oto.
Schools generally ban clothing based on whether or not it causes a disruption in school. Women have fought the “distraction” component in dress codes in the past, saying that it puts the onus on women to dress so they don’t distract men.
The student’s mother has said that adults have been making threats along with with other students.
“For me, as a mother, I’m concerned for his safety. He’s just a 15-year-old boy,” she said. She also revealed that he has worn similar shirts in the past with Confederate flags on them and a belt buckle with the flag and there wasn’t an incident.
“School administration has met with student and his parent about the incident that took place on Friday and have worked to resolve the incident as well as to ensure that there will be no more similar incidents like it in the future,” the school district said in a statement Monday. “This entire incident is an educational reminder to all of us how the interpretations of different symbols and expressions can vary from person to person. It’s also a reminder to us that schools should always be a safe and inclusive place for students to learn and interact with one another.”