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Freedom of Speech Debate in Lawrence Schools

Lawrence Free State High School recently told a student to take down a confederate flag from his truck. Superintendent Rick Doll said that they asked the student to take the flag down because it disrupted the school’s learning environment.

The freedom of speech was a concern in this incident, but Doll said they were protecting the students. Doll also said in an email that, “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.”

First Amendment professor Thomas Volek said that he thinks the courts would take the side of the school and allow them to tell the student that the flag needed to be taken down.  Lawrence Free State is a public school and this is different from a private school where the school makes all of the rules including dress code like a uniform.

Volek said, “I believe the courts would say school officials have… are well within their authority to say we’re not going to permit confederate flags to be waved, to be used as any non educational thing… meaning educational thing I mean in the class room and in the curriculum.”​

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