PLUM, Pa. (AP) — A school district where a black student was upset that a classmate was allowed to wear a sweatshirt depicting the Confederate flag said on Friday that after more students went to class wearing Confederate flag clothing it must be banned.
Earlier Friday, Plum Borough School District Superintendent Timothy Glasspool had told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that a high school student had a right to wear a sweatshirt depicting a Confederate flag even though it upset the black student and her father. He said courts had determined school officials can't prevent a student from wearing a sweatshirt unless it's disruptive.
However, when three students arrived at school wearing such clothing on Friday and two were sent home after refusing to remove it, the items were becoming a distraction, Glasspool said in a statement posted on the district's website.
"As an educational institution we view this as a learning opportunity for our children and encourage all families to discuss how these symbols can cause fear or anxiety in others," he wrote. "The practice of ethnic, religious, racial or gender-charged symbols that profess hatred, bigotry, or oppression has no place in any learning institution and will not be tolerated in Plum schools."
The father of the black 11th-grader offended by the sweatshirt, Robert Williams, said Confederate flags "imply things that aren't very nice" and represent slavery and bondage. He said he thought the issue had been resolved after school officials asked the student not to wear the sweatshirt but his daughter told him the boy wore it again Thursday.
"My daughter is afraid to be in class with this student. It's disruptive to her learning environment," Williams told the newspaper. "As a black man, it is abhorrent that this is being allowed in school."
Williams said he warned his daughter their complaint might inspire more students to wear such clothing.
Parent Maurice Freeman, who is black, went to Plum High School to pull his 10th-grade daughter out of class on Friday after she called and said she was scared because a number of students wore clothing adorned with Confederate flags.
"I wasn't sure what was going on," he said. "I wanted to get her out of harm's way."