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Judges’ Collaboration

Here are a couple of Brookwood judges sharing their thoughts about who has a better case going into the hearing:


  1. Well, in our class, we learned that the Tinker case is very similar to this case. Both of them are trying to convey their ideas through a symbol, the Tinker’s symbol was a black armband, where this symbol is the confederate flag. The armbands weren’t known for anything racist, but in the Defoe case, the confederate flag has a long history of hate. The flag was used for the confederacy, which was the group of people that wanted slavery, and once the Confederacy was demolished, they used it to represent the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK is a clan that is a white supremeist group, they believe that they are better than the blacks, and their symbol was the Confederate flag, so during that time period, the Confederate Flag symbolized black hatred. Both of these ideas of slavery and the KKK are around today, and as a African-American person, to see someone wearing the Confederate flag, it can be very scary. To them it can show that they want to get rid of the black race, which could make him lose his right to feeling safe, or that they supported slavery, which would be very racist to the black people. But in this case, no specific violence has occurred. As said in the ruling of the tinker case, the free speech can only be limited when it disrupts the school, or impends on someones rights. My question is that do you think since it is very likely that it could disrupt the school and impend on someones rights at the same time, it is reasonable to suspend Defoe, or do you think that since no violence has occurred yet, that he should be allowed to wear it, and they can tell him to take it off once violence occurs? Remember that this school has a long history of racial tension between the blacks, and the whites.

    • I agree with Kevin that the cases are very similar. I think they both express a sensitive subject. The Tinker’s case was different because it didn’t have to do with racism and there were multiple people wearing the armbands. The Defoe case was just one student who got suspended. The Defoe case happened in a worse place because of the racial tension and violence in the school. The confederate flag could bring out violence and the tension that was in the school’s background.

      • Jake, you make a good point, but I have to disagree. At around the time of the Tinker Case, the Vietnam War was a very touchy subject, much like slavery in the Defoe Case. Lots of people disagreed about different aspects of the war. Some supported it, some did not (like slavery). So in my opinion, I think that they should have the same ruling because even though there was racial tension and violence in the school, so was there in the Tinker Case surrounding the Vietnam War.

  2. My group has learned that there are also many other cases that had to do with kids wearing the confederate flag to school, but the Defoe cause is probably the most well known. I agree with Kevin when he says that the Tinker’s armbands were not racist, but that Defoe wearing the confederate flag was kind of racist. Because the South had slavery before and during the civil war, and the confederate flag was their flag, it seems to me that it might represent that time period and slavery, etc. I can see why the school thought that Defoe wearing the belt buckle and T-shirt to school would be racist if there were black students, but I think that because we’ve moved past that, and its been a very long time since then, that the school shouldn’t have punished Defoe.

    • I agree with Kevin and Isea. I think that the Tinker’s armbands were not a sign of racism because it didn’t directly connect to the United States. The Tinker’s armbands were protesting the American’s involvement with the Vietnam war, and that didn’t really harm anyone in the US because they were’t dividing the country and turning on themselves. However, I think that Defoe’s belt was a sign of racism. In this case, it was representing a conflict that the country had gone to war about. If some students thought that the North was right about slavery, then they could have been offended if the teachers hadn’t punished him and thought that the school agreed with slavery. Even though Defoe wore a possibly offensive belt, I don’t think he should have been suspended. The teachers could have just asked him to take it off and his First Amendment rights wouldn’t have been violated as much.

    • I think that the belt was racist. I think that because of all of the racial smoke in the school, it think it meant more than just to show his southern heritage. I think that Tommy maybe quarreled with a black person, then wore a belt bearing the confederate flag to show his disliking of blacks. I think that the southern heritage think was a coverup. Also, I think that Tom was aware that he had signed a code of conduct that had the dress code with it, and he has broken that conduct.

      • I think that Henry’s idea could be a big possibility. He had worn it before and had been told to take it off, and I don’t think he would have worn it again and risk being suspended just so he could show his southern heritage. I wouldn’t wear a California flag just to show that I was from California just to show that I’m from California and risk being suspended. I think that he was trying to be a little racist.

        • I do think that he should have won by now, though. I studied a case like this where a Tyler Lewis wore a Confederate flag to school and was suspended, but his lawyer said that he was allowed to wear it until it started to cause any commotion. Then he wouldn’t be allowed to wear it, and the court agreed with Lewis’ lawyer

      • I disagree with Henry I don’t think that Defoe was intending to have such a big problem happen. I think he knew that if he wore the belt that something or someone would comment on it. I don’t think that he wore it on purpose to show his disliking of blacks and to make such controversy. I do agree that he knew what the dress code was but I also think he is aloud to wear something to show his heritage and this wasn’t something he was trying to do on purpose.

        • I agree with Erin. I believe that Defoe didn’t intend on causing a disturbance. I think that he wanted to just wear his belt in peace and show that he supports his heritage. And I also agree that he did know that someone was going to give negative feedback on the belt weather it was a teacher or a student he was going to cause something that would make people tell him to take it off and believe he was a racist to blacks.

      • Henry, the Tinkers knew they weren’t allowed to wear the black arm bands, but they did anyway because they wanted to make a point. Same with Tommy Defoe, I think that they didn’t really care what the dress code says, the really only wanted to communicate their point. Also, I don’t think we can assume that just because he wore the flag doesn’t mean that he is against blacks.

      • I disagree with Henry. We don’t know about Defoe’s feeling’s toward blacks. I believe that he wore it for his heritage and if he wanted to offend blacks he would have caused more violence which wasn’t what happened. I don’t think Defoe wanted to start problems with race but race is kind of unavoidable when you bring up the Confederate Flag.

  3. I think that the belt was a symbol for both hatred towards black and a symbol for southern heritage. The Tinker case was about the Tinkers wearing the black arm bands to school to show that they did not support the Vietnam war and that the United States should stop taking part in it. The Defoe case is different in that it is about wearing a confederate flag to school to show their southern heritage. The Defoe and the Tinkers were similar because they were both trying to show their opinions through symbolism, but the things they were symbolizing were different. The Tinkers were sharing an opinion that was not really harmful to people but the Defoe were showing a symbol that has many different reactions. I think that the Circuit courts should have looked this case over because even if the symbol is offensive Defoe should still be allowed to wear it.

  4. I agree with Jake’s statement, that the Defoe case occurred in a worse place than the Tinker case. I researched about the Defoe case and found out that there was a history for racial disturbance. When Defoe wore a shirt with the Confederate Flag, he got suspended. Then he wore the belt buckle. He must have had strong feelings about this flag, but why want to cause fights/riots?

    • I have a question, when you say “happened in a worse place” do you mean because of the racial tension, or the actual area? Also I don’t think that Tommy Defoe wanted to cause riots or fights, he wanted to express his opinion. I say this because it does not seem likely that he would purposely pull (a certain groups) tails to cause a fight, I’m sure he was trying to say something more. By this I mean that he wore the flag to say that he believes strongly in (what he interprets the meaning of the flag as). On the other hand, he could have done it just to bother certain people that would be offended by him wearing the shirt. (The other people involved in racial tension, on both sides) I have a question, Why do you all think Tommy Defoe wore the flag? Did he do it as a symbol of hatred towards the blacks, or merely to say that, that is where he came from? I think this is him choosing sides, and he probably knew something big would come out of it, whether fights broke out, or not, he knew his actions (of breaking a rule and offending a certain group) would receive a response. Tell me what you think.

      • Sarah, you bring up a good point but I’m not sure I agree. We can’t assume that Defoe was trying to cause trouble. He may not have been aware of the consequences he might cause by wearing such a controversial symbol. Since we don’t know Defoe personally, we don’t know what his motives were for wearing the flag.

        • Marissa, I definitely agree that it can’t be assumed that Defoe was purposefully causing trouble. However, I am not sure how likely it is that Tom was completely ignorant to other races’ opinions and feelings about him wearing the flag. It’s possible that he wasn’t aware the first time he wore it that the symbol would create an issue, but seeing he wore it a second time, to me, complete innocence is out of the question. Also, though this is a good point, we have to keep in mind that it is not our job to determine his intentions, but to judge if it is unlawful for the school to set such limits on students.

  5. Although I agree with Kevin that the cases are very similar, I have one question. I wondered if the year of the case has anything to do with it. The Tinkers were wearing the black armbands to protest something that was happening then, but the civil war wasn’t happening at the times Defoe was wearing the flag. Also, the Tinkers were protesting the vietnam war, but Defoe wasn’t protesting against anything, he just chose to wear the flag for whatever reason.

    • When you think about it, both cases are still sensitive topics to talk about today. It would change things if the Defoe case wasn’t so recent, but instead in the time of the Civil Rights Movement. This would raise a lot of tension, if the school was against the idea of the movement. It wouldn’t be the same with the Tinker Case however, because it was a issue going on with the world

  6. I believe that Tommy Defoe did have the right to wear his confederate flag shirt, although this could have been offensive to blacks, I believe everybody has the freedom to speech and that know ones rights should be taken away. On the other hand I do not think it is appropriate for everybody to have the freedom of speech if they are setting them selves up to be harmed or others. I think this case should have gone like the Tyler Lewis case where a boy need Lewis wore a confederate flag shirt to school and was suspended much like Tommy Defoe, but them I think Tommy should have been aloud to where his shirt until there was danger in the subject. This is how the court compromised on the Tyler Lewis case. Overall, I think everybody should have the freedom to speech unless you are putting someone or yourself in danger.

    • I agree that everyone should have the right to express themselves with freedom of speech, but people should have the self control and decency to not wear something that could offend people and if people do not have the decency then regulations are required to keep the peace. All in all I think that the ban against the confederate flag was okay because they would not have crated it if there was no reason. Someone must have abused the freedom of wearing the flag before.

  7. I agree with Jakes comment at the end of his statement he said,”The Defoe case happened in a worse place because of the racial tension and violence in the school. The confederate flag could bring out violence and the tension that was in the school’s background.” I found another case in 1988, Hazelewood School District vs. Kuhlmeier. A student for the school news paper submitted a section on teen pregnancy do to the fact that there were a few teenagers wh were pregnant at that school. That section of the news drew up lots of tension and could have put some of the students in danger or harm.

  8. Tommy Defoe has the right to wear whatever he wants if its not in the dress code. The school does not have the right to make disable him able to wear a belt buckle. That doesn’t mean it was a smart decision. If wearing a belt buckle with the confederate flag on it angers people, it’s the schools job to come up with the solution. He was protesting against the schools decision when he wore the belt buckle a second time. The only solution was to ban him and everyone else from wearing anything with the confederate flag on it.

        • I agree with Jakob that the anger could spread through the school to other students. I do not agree that all students that cause anger in their schools should be banned. I it is just a couple of kids that are upset about it, then the school should wait and see if it causes a bigger problem and then they should make the decision.

          • I don’t think it would spread among other students. If there was “racial smoke”, some of the other students would not agree with what Tommy Defoe was saying. Sure, some of his friends would probably start wearing it (if they agree with him) , but I feel that some other students would try to voice their opinion on the belt buckle. I wonder if Defoe pointed it out to some of his friends.

    • Actually, he doesn’t have the right to wear whatever he wants. As stated in the tinker case, if there is any disruption in school, it is reasonable to suspend or kick them out of the school. And if it impinges on other’s rights, by making the feel unsafe, then it isn’t allowed. He doesn’t have the right to wear whatever he wants during school because of the Tinker ruling.

  9. I think the major difference between the Tinker Case and the Defoe Case was that Tom’s clothing displayed hate speech, whereas the kids in the Tinker Case were protesting the War. The kids protesting harmed no one and created no tension or disruption, but Tom’s clothes made certain students uncomfortable and tense. A hundred years ago this might have been acceptable, but after the civil rights movement the standard changed. Everyone is equal, and if one student causes unrest in a school environment then it should be stopped.

    • Technically Tinker protest did cause tension and disruption because if it didn’t they wouldn’t have been suspended in the first place. While Tom’s close may be considered ‘hateful’ I find it to be Defoe excersizing his right of free speech and as said in the Tinker v. Des Moines case “no one expects students to shed their constitutional right to freedom of speech at the school house gate.” If judging by precedent than Defoe was just excersizing his right of free speech. Although I can see how the flag can be interpreted as a symbol of hate I see it to be more a symbol of states’ rights. The South felt that the North was taking away their rights, not to mention the unseen reasons which were a tariff introduced in the south, “state soverignty” and other nullification rights were being either run down or ignored, and that Congress was repeatedly trying to change the consitution so that members of the senate were elected by popular vote. These left the South feeling economically and politically isolated. Also I think people quickly jump to the rash conclusion that just becasue they see the confederate flag that they are a supporter of slavery, to wear they could be just supporting their heritage instead whats populary believed that they are supporting slavery.

      • Not necessarily hate, just unhappiness. They didn’t “hate” the Vietnam War, they just didn’t like that soldiers were going over and risking their lives for a war that they felt we didn’t need to be involved in.

  10. I believe that the real question that the case boils down to is if the Confederate flag is considered racist. If it is, then the school dress code clearly states that he is not allowed to wear it.

      • I think there was an error said somewhere. Defoe did not actually get suspended for wearing a Confederate flag shirt, he got a warning. Since Defoe already had a warning from wearing the Confederate flag shirt, he got suspended for wearing the belt in further violation.

      • He probably believed in whatever he was trying to get across so much that he didn’t care if he was going to be suspended or not. He just wanted to make a statement to his school.

    • Well, you have to remember the Tinker case. The judges ruled that it would not be against the law to wear an item that shows symbolic speech, when it does not disrupt the school or impinge on others rights. In this case, they are worried of FUTURE danger, where right now there is no danger and they aren’t impinging on other’s rights. So based on what the judges ruled in the Tinkers case, they should be allowed to wear the confederate flag, until it disrupts school and creates violence.

      • Did the confederate flag on the belt buckle/shirt actually start any violence? Because from what Kevin says if the school told him AFTER he caused commotion (if any) than he had to cover up the confederate flag BUT if it was just telling him to take it off before commotion had even started then he should have been allowed to wear it.

  11. I feel that Defoe shouldn’t worn the belt buckle because he got in trouble once for wearing the confederate flag on a shirt. Then he wore the belt buckle with the confederate flag on it and was suspended even though he was “representing his southern heritage” when there was racial tension at the school.

    • I agree. I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t have taken a hint from the t-shirt fiasco. If he had known what was best for himself, he wouldn’t have worn the belt buckle. But he did. This either means that he was really dedicated to his heritage, or he was trying to make a statement to someone. If I had been suspended for wearing a certain article of clothing, you can be pretty sure that I wouldn’t wear it again or in a different form. So pretty much, he was either trying to make a statement about his heritage or a statement aimed to hurt someone.

      If his intent was to hurt someone however, the issue is whether the Confederate flag is considered “racist”. To me, even if 1 out of 100 people consider it the tiniest bit racist, then it is, and he shouldn’t be allowed to wear it.

      • Well, you have to remember, that in the Tinker case. The judges ruled that it would not be against the law to wear an item that shows symbolic speech, when it does not disrupt the school or impinge on others rights. In this case, they are worried of FUTURE danger, where right now there is no danger and they aren’t impinging on other’s rights. So based on what the judges ruled in the Tinkers case, they should be allowed to wear the confederate flag, until it disrupts school and creates violence.

        • I agree Kevin. I don’t believe that he meant to cause a disturbance but I am not saying that he didn’t think it would because racial tension is unavoidable when talking about the Confederate Flag. Rights can only be limited if there is violence and there is not yet any violence. In the case Cody Long v. Mason High School Long wore a belt displaying the Confederate Flag. He was only told to take it off when it disturbed school by causing violence. How is the Defoe case any different?

          • I think that there is different between that case and our case because there was probably more racist smoke in Anderson County High than in Mason High school. If there was no racial smoke, it wouldn’t of really meant any thing.

      • I agree with Tyler. I think it’s fairly understandable if Defoe didn’t realize the flag could be seen as racist the first time he wore it, but the school asked him not to wear it and he still wore it a second time. He was perfectly aware of the rule, and had signed the dress code, so ignorance cannot be an excuse.

        • But, even though it can be seen as a sign of racism, there had been no violence over him wearing it or no disruptance in the school. He is just wearing a belt to show what he believes, he might believe in slavery, or maybe he is just showing his “Southern Heritage” like he says. There has been no disruption in this school and as of the ruling in the Tinker case, it would be allowed. Also, it does not go against anyones rights and make others feel unsafe, because there hadn’t been any African-American people that had saw it. If the African-American kids had told on him for wearing it and making it unsafe, then it would be different, but here it was just the principle suspending him for not taking it off. He believes that he has the right to show his heritage, and just because the principle tells him he can’t, doesn’t mean he will. He feels strongly about telling people about what he feels, and he doesn’t want to stop.

    • Jack… If someone really believes in something and is trying to make a statement, they aren’t going to stop doing that because they were told not to by a teacher. According to articles and the information we have about the Defoe case, he was wearing the Confederate Flag to represent his ancestors and background, not to cause racial tension among his school.

      • That doesn’t mean that the other side can make an argument. Racial Tension from the past doesn’t mean anything. Just if this caused violence is what means something.

        • In 2007, the Supreme Court actually made a law that stated that schools could punish students for speech related incidents EVEN if they didn’t cause disturbance or violence though. So even if it didn’t cause violence, it’s okay for him to be suspended.

    • Maybe he was trying to prove a point, though. Obviously he believes in his cause, whether it he was just “representing his southern heritage” or if he was showing something else. If he was told to not wear the Confederate Flag after he wore the shirt, and he wore the belt after that, he might be trying to tell the school something.

  12. Something very interesting popped up today. We found the state of Mississippi’s actual words on why they seceded from the Union. In it, it said, and I quote, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of SLAVERY– the greatest material interest of the world.” This means that at least one state seceded purely because of slavery. This being the case, it means that for some, the Confederate flag could very well be a symbol of slavery and/or hatred.

    • It might be a symbol of hatred, but maybe Defoe didn’t know that Mississippi seceded only because of slavery. We don’t know if he knew that or not. For some, it probably doesn’t make a difference if Mississippi seceded because of slavery; it would still represent their heritage because that’s what they believe in. It could mean different things to different people who look at it.

    • But did Defoe go to school in a district located in Mississippi? Because he might not live there and the state he lives in might not have left purely because of slavery. Maybe his state left because of something else, and he was wearing the Confederate Flag to represent his heritage, maybe it wasn’t about slavery.

    • What if Defoe was trying to scare/intimidate/cause a disturbance with people at the school? If that’s what he “really believed in”, then he wouldn’t stop until he acheived that. Now, I’m not saying that he was, I’m just saying that maybe that was the case.

  13. Well, Tyler, when you found out that in the Mississippi declaration of secession, it says that the main reason they are seceding is because they think that Abraham Lincoln was going to get rid of slavery. Was this school in Mississippi, because if not, I find that declaration of secession to be irrelevant to this case.

    • The school is in Tennessee Kevin. Also, the reason that I posted this was to show that for some people, the Confederate flag WAS a symbol of slavery. This being the case, some people still could see the Confederate flag and think of slavery. I was saying how just maybe, Tom Defoe could have meant the flag to be a symbol of slavery. I wasn’t accusing him of anything though.

      • I agree with Tyler. I think that because the south seceded partly because of slavery, the confederate flag represents slavery, also a bit of southern heritage maybe too. But since slavery is a factor, some might be extremely offended by it .

  14. I think that the reason the South seceded could help both sides. It could help Defoe’s side because many people think that the South seceded because the North did not want slavery as much as the south. It could help the school’s side because it others think that the south didn’t secede because of slavery.

  15. I was wondering what the Phillips vs Anderson country case was all about? Would love to here back soon because have we have to do it for homework.
    Miles Buddenhagen, and Isabella Siciliano

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