High School Football Team Burns Cross While Wearing KKK Hoods
“In the midst of an ongoing national debate about the difference between free speech and hate speech, a First Amendment issue has surfaced in the wake of an abhorrent act by high school football players in Iowa.
Five students in the town of Creston staged a cross burning that was captured on social media earlier this month, with all of them wearing white hoods. One held what appeared to be a Confederate flag; another held what appeared to be an assault rifle.
The local newspaper, the Creston News-Advertiser, reported that the students in the photo were members of the high school football team. “This isn’t what our students are about,” Creston High principal Bill Messerole told the Des Moines Register. “Our students are above this.” (A message to Messerole was not returned.) Athletic director Jeff Bevins disciplined the students, according to the Register, but that’s where this becomes tricky.
Because the students are minors, the school did not reveal what disciplinary action was taken. They have been removed from the football team. But as unsettling as the act was, it’s not clear that it’s legally appropriate for the school to mete out a punishment. “What’s interesting about this situation,” says Mark Kende, director of the Constitutional Law Center at Drake University, “is they did something highly offensive, and it would be perceived as such by racial minorities, but it’s not at all clear they targeted those people.”
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