Southern pride and T-shirts that divide
Ten minutes after dropping her niece off at Cairo High, Kim Harrison's cellphone chirped. It was Nicole, calling from the principal's office: "Can you come and pick me up? They're sending me home."
The sprightly sophomore didn't get busted for wearing a pair of short-shorts or showing off her bellybutton. What disturbed administrators enough to send Nicole and eight other students home was a Confederate logo on their shirts.
Ms. Harrison couldn't have been more surprised. Only a few years ago, she herself had worn the St. Andrew's Cross as a student at the same school - and had swung the battle flag as part of Cairo's "Pride of Dixie" band.
What she found out is that the Grady County School Board is far from alone in banning Dixie bandannas and forcing students to scratch Confederate icons off car bumpers: From Ohio to Kentucky, scores of districts have banned such items, claiming they cause disruptions.
Since Georgia's state flag, featuring a full-sized St. Andrew's Cross, came down in January, six Georgia communities have cracked down on Hank Williams and Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirts. "The Rebels" of one Southern high school now wave a "spirit flag" instead of the battle flag.
But instead of easing the tension, such moves seem to have only raised the stakes in the South. In fact, the notion of subjugating the Confederacy in the schools is too much for Harrison and hundreds of other parents. As a result, Southerners with family ties to the Confederacy have filed more than 60 legal actions against T-shirt bans - and have even filed civil rights complaints with the US Department of Justice. More lawsuits are expected as schools open across the South in the next month.