Andrew Ford: University of Pennsylvania Masters of Education Policy 2019

State and local policymakers face a dilemma with student speech. On the one hand, policymakers understand the importance of students having a voice in their communities and experimenting with new ideas. On the other hand, schools must have the power to curb student speech when it
interferes with a positive learning environment. The dilemma becomes more pronounced with controversial issues, such as student displays of the Confederate flag. This paper contextualizes the modern debate over the Confederate flag in public schools through the flag’s social and legal
history. It traces the flag’s many and diverse uses since its inception in the Civil War, follows the changing stance of student speech rights in the courts, and then analyzes recent student displays of the flag and how their schools responded. This paper concludes that schools tend to censor the
Confederate flag without engaging with the student side of the speech dilemma. I hope that an understanding of the historical context will lead to a more careful balancing of student and school interests.

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