UPDATE: 21 Christiansburg students suspended for wearing Confederate flag apparel
CHRISTIANSBURG — Twenty-one Christiansburg High School students were suspended this morning for wearing Confederate flag regalia, which is a violation of the school’s dress code policy.
According to Montgomery County Public Schools spokeswoman Brenda Drake, 24 students were seen on school grounds wearing Confederate emblems. All were asked by school officials to comply with the dress code and remove the Confederate apparel. Three of the students changed their attire to adhere to the dress code, while the remaining 21 were placed into In-School Suspension, a lesser form of suspension that involves students being cloistered away from the general student population.
According to Drake, 15 students became disruptive in ISS and were sent home with official suspensions. Another two used “threatening/abusive language” and received “additional days of suspension.” The remaining four students complied with the school’s standards of behavior and remained in ISS.
The policy started receiving attention on Aug. 11 when, on the first day of school, three CHS students were asked by Principal David Siers to remove Confederate flag decals from their cars, which they did. Montgomery County’s other three high schools (Auburn, Blacksburg and Eastern Montgomery) do not ban clothes or vehicle decals with Confederate emblems.
Christiansburg resident Mark McGhee’s daughter, Hazel, is a freshman at CHS and was one of the students to receive In-School Suspension. According Mark McGhee, his daughter wore a shirt adorned with “G.R.I.T.S.” (an acronym for “girls raised in the South”) and a small Confederate emblem.
He said she intentionally wore the shirt to protest the school’s policy.
“I don’t understand why they’re taking away their rights,” he said. “It’s got nothing to do with the Confederate flag. … Specifically, why is it just Christiansburg High School? This is not a school board issue. It’s a school staff issue.”
The students were spotted as early as 7:30 a.m., quietly standing together in the parking lot. They were neither holding signs nor chanting slogans, a witness said.
Drake added that students are disciplined for a variety of dress-code violations, such as clothes that are too revealing or containing offensive language.
An online petition asking the Montgomery County School Board to reverse the CHS policy was started on www.change.org by Joshua Akers of Elliston. As of 2 p.m. Thursday, 1,096 people had signed the petition.