2 students suspended for wearing Confederate flag to school

MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. -- A student at Tahoma High School says he was unfairly punished and sent home from school for showing a Confederate flag.

Sixteen-year-old Grady says he and his friend showed up at the school Monday morning wearing Confederate flags.

"We put ours around our necks and kind of walked around with them," said Grady, who asked we not use his last name. "It's just a way of showing our southern pride, nothing racist at all."

He says they did it after another student came to class wearing a Gay Pride flag.

"If he can wear his flag in support of what he believes, we figured we could do that as well," Grady said.

But Tahoma High School has banned the flag, calling it a message of hate. And in response, the school district suspended both juniors, saying their flags upset other students and teachers.

"There were complaints from students and staff, yes," said Kevin Patterson with the Tahoma School District.

However, there are other allegations of students displaying Confederate flags at Tahoma High, with little to no action from school officials.

One student says she sees Confederate flags attached to student's cars and trucks in the parking lot almost everyday, while a year and half ago, Tahoma's principal warned students on the school's website not to wear clothing that "displays representation of hate -- including Confederate flags."

Grady says a lot of his friends own them and display theirs, adding he and his friend wear matching Confederate earrings everyday too, and they've never been disciplined until now.

But the school district paints a different picture, saying Monday's incident is the only one they've had. Patterson says school officials warned Grady and his friend not to wear their Confederate flags, "and they chose to bring them anyway."

Patterson calls it disruptive behavior that's unfair to other students.

"They have a right to be there and not have their classes interrupted by this kind of event," Patterson said.

Grady says he understands why people might be offended by him wearing the Confederate flag, but says he considers wearing the flag free speech.

Both students are supposed to be back in class Monday.
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