U.S. District Court Judge Terry Wooten has decided in favor of Dillon School District 3 in Latta in a 2006 lawsuit involving clothing bearing the Confederate flag, Superintendent Dr. John Kirby said.
On March 30, 2006, the Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of then-15-year-old Candice Hardwick, a Latta High School student who it said was unfairly punished for wearing Confederate-themed clothing to class.
Kirby said Wooten entered a summary judgment Sept. 9 for the district, which determined that the district had a preponderance of the evidence in the case, and that the plaintiff didn’t have enough evidence to warrant a trial.
Wooten said in his ruling that the school board had the duty to develop appropriate policies for a safe school environment, Kirby said.
Kirby said the decision proved that the district carried out dress policies fairly, appropriately and legally.
â€œThe decision reaffirms the community’s right to expect safe schools,”he said.
It also empowers other school districts to enact and enforce similar policies designed to ensure student and staff safety, Kirby said. …
… Kirk Lyons, chief trial counsel for the SLRC, represented the Hardwicks, who were seeking to have the school board amend its dress code to allow Confederate symbols, expunge Candice’s school records of any”damaging marks,”and pay an unspecified amount for punitive damages arising from Candice’s treatment.
Lyons said Wednesday he will appeal Wooten’s decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
While Lyons said he would have liked the case to have gone to trial :”I think we were entitled to one,”he said : he couldn’t ask for better facts to take to the Fourth Circuit.
â€œThere is no evidence of disruption at the school to justify either the school’s actions or the judge’s opinion … It’s an opinion that must be appealed,”he said.”The facts are not in controversy … The school concedes there was no disruption.”
Lyons said he’s confident Wooten’s ruling will be overturned on appeal, citing the Tinker v. Des Moines School District case in which three public school students were suspended from school for wearing black armbands to protest the government’s policy in Vietnam. The Court of Appeals ruled in 1969 that”A prohibition against expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others, is not permissible under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”
â€œA student doesn’t leave his rights at the schoolhouse gate,”Lyons said. …