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(Chattanooga Times Free Press) Fifty years ago today, the United States Supreme Court ruled on a case dealing with the right of a Chattanooga student to wear a Confederate emblem on his jacket, and that ruling seems to have been a precedent for subsequent court rulings on similar matters.
By refusing to hear the case, the high court upheld the decision from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said Brainerd High School Principal Billy von Schaaf had been correct in asking senior student Rod Melton not to wear the emblem because it had become too provocative during the integration of the school.
Racial tensions had roiled the school during the 1969-1970 school year, prompting it to close several times, and a biracial committee formed afterward recommended that the Confederate flag as a school symbol and “Dixie” as the school pep song be dropped.
Melton wore the jacket to school in the fall of 1970, and von Schaaf asked him to remove the emblem or stop wearing the jacket. When he wore it again the next day, he was told to remove the jacket or leave school. He left school, and eventually his parents brought suit in federal court.
The 1971 ruling by U.S. District Judge Frank Wilson maintained that “the principal had every right to anticipate that a tense racial situation continued to exist at Brainerd High School … in September of 1970 and that repetition of the previous year’s disorder might reoccur if student use of the Confederate symbol was permitted to resume.”
The Court of Appeals later upheld Wilson’s decision, saying the principal had the right to make the decision he did.
In a number of cases this century, the Supreme Court has taken a similar route, dismissing…Opinion: Brainerd High School case 50 years ago was precedent for future court rulings involving Confederate apparel | Chattanooga Times Free Press