VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A Virginia Beach high school student said administrators are suppressing his first amendment rights.
The Tallwood High School student and a handful of friends flew three flags in the back of the pick-up trucks they park on school property: the American flag, the POW flag and the Confederate battle flag. But Junior Randy Styron III said an assistant principal told him to take the POW and Confederate flags down.
“We are flying these at school and the administration told us we have to take down the POW and Virginia battle flag because it was not on the school flagpole,” Styron said. “They said all flags flown at school had to be approved by the governor.”
Styron said he called the governor’s office and received an email with a statute, saying the school has to fly the American flag and the state flag. But the statute doesn’t address other flags on school property. So Styron called his delegate.
“When I contacted Scott Taylor’s office, his secretary contacted the school board, and the school board told her that the principal has the right to govern their school in that aspect,” Styron said. “To me, they practically just said the principal can make up rules as they go.”
Virginia Beach City Public School policy does not have any specifics about flags. In the free speech section, the rules say speech cannot disrupt the educational process. Styron argues the flags are not in the classroom — they’re in the parking lot.
Lauren Wicks, a spokesperson for Virginia Beach public schools, sent WAVY.com the following statement:
The assistant principal concluded the conduct had the potential to cause a disruption to the educational environment and took the appropriate action to avoid that disruption, which is well within the authority of school administration. As a point of clarification, the student was not asked to remove the POW flag from his vehicle.
Styron insists he was asked to take the POW flag down. He understands why some people are offended by the Confederate flag, but he believes he has the right to fly it.
“I had family who fought for the Confederacy, so for me, it’s just southern pride and heritage,” Styron said. “I don’t see any problem with that.”
Styron started a petition to fly his flags. He collected 235 signatures, but the school wouldn’t accept it because of a formality. Styron said the petition did not include the proper scripting and language to be considered.
10 On Your Side tried to contact the attorney for the school board, but she was out of the office Monday. Representatives from the governor’s office and Scott Taylor’s office did not respond to 10 On Your Side’s inquiries.