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SPLC Condemns Georgia High School’s Ban on Student Protest and Stands Ready to Support Disciplined Students

ROME, Ga. – Several Black students at Coosa High School are facing suspension for planning a protest in response to fellow classmates who waved a Confederate flag and yelled racial slurs on school property last week. Although students of other races were involved in the planning, only the Black students were suspended. Meanwhile, the school has failed to condemn the actions of the students who flew the Confederate flag on campus.

The following statement is from SPLC Chief of Staff Lecia Brooks:

“We are disheartened by Floyd County Public Schools’ blatant bias against Black students. Administrators allowed white students to yell racial slurs while openly displaying a symbol used by white supremacists to terrorize and intimidate Black people. Yet Coosa High School leaders had no problem banning LGBTQ+ pride and Black Lives Matter insignia or suspending Black students who dared protest the symbol of hate.

“No school should ever endorse the use of offensive, hateful symbolism and rhetoric that represents the oppression of any of its students, nor should they punish students for exercising their First Amendment right to protest. The Confederate flag is unequivocally a symbol of hate and has no place in our schools. Floyd County Public Schools is sending the wrong message to students by allowing the traitorous flag to be displayed on school property without strongly condemning the action or offering support for the students and families who were negatively impacted.

“Distressingly, the students’ suspensions are part of a long legacy of racial injustice that the Southern Poverty Law Center seeks to eradicate. In Georgia and school districts throughout the South, Black students are suspended and expelled at rates that far exceed their share of student enrollment. Even though Black students in Floyd County make up only 7.5% of the overall student population, they account for nearly 14% of the out-of-school suspensions in the district.

“We call on Coosa High School to immediately rescind any disciplinary action against all students involved with this protest, and to have those actions removed from their disciplinary records. The SPLC stands ready to support any students who were disciplined.

“All students should be encouraged to demand justice and help shape the reality of democracy for the world, which is why we also call on Floyd County Public Schools to revise any and all policies that harm Black and Brown students.

“Our schools are the foundation to creating an antiracist society by offering safe, welcoming and inclusive spaces for all students and families. We vehemently denounce the actions of the school district and support the Floyd County community in fighting against hate.”