The American Civil Liberties Union is coming to the defense of a New Jersey student who was punished for hanging a stylized Confederate battle flag on his car in the school parking lot.
Gregory Vied was suspended from Steinert High School earlier this week after he refused to remove from his car a flag that displays the stars and bars and says “redneck” across it. While the school's principal had repeatedly asked Vied to take down the flag after other students complained about it, the student says he has a right to fly the banner.
"Them trying to make me take it down, is unconstitutional," Vied, who is now back in school, told News 12 New Jersey. He also said he flies the flag because of his connection to Southern relatives.
After receiving the suspension, Vied approached the American Civil Liberties Union about his case, according to The Times of Trenton. The ACLU subsequently sent a letter to the school, emphasizing Vied’s right to freedom of expression and asking the school for “immediate assurances that neither Greg nor any other student will be disciplined for displaying a Confederate flag.”
“Students have a right to speech or expression unless the administration can demonstrate that the prohibited speech would ‘materially and substantially’ disrupt the operation of the school or interfere with another’s rights,” Ed Barocas, legal director for New Jersey’s ACLU wrote to the school. “School officials would be hard pressed to support an argument that they have a ‘well-founded’ belief that the expression at issue will cause a ‘material disruption’ to the operation of the school.”
Officials at the school did not respond to requests for comment before press time.
To show support for Vied, more students have started displaying similar flags on their car. None of them have been punished so far, according to News 12 New Jersey.
Last year, a Arizona high school came under fire for hosting a "Redneck Day," during which one student wore a Confederate battle flag to school. After the incident, the United States Department of Education said it was investigating the school to determine "whether a racially hostile environment was created due to language and actions that were not protected by the First Amendment."