PHILADELPHIA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania responded today to inquiries about alleged incidents of racial harassment at the Saucon Valley School District in Northampton County. The following can be attributed to Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“The racial slurs and other harassment reported by both students and teachers from this school district are really upsetting -- this situation goes way beyond the mere wearing of a Confederate battle flag, and the description is of a school environment that would rightly frighten students of color and tell them that they are not welcome and that they aren't entitled to the education other students get.
“Racial slurs and racist symbols like the Confederate battle flag are protected speech outside the school environment, but they can be banned or punished in schools when they are used in a manner or to a degree that they interfere with the ability of students of color to get as much out of school as other students get. To ban Confederate flags in a school, you need either a history of racist incidents or harassment that is linked to the flag, or some other reason, particular to that school, to expect that the flag would lead to disruption, including disruption of the ability of students of color to pursue their educations. It sounds like that could be true in this district.
“The school board member quoted as saying that students should be able to handle ‘day-to-day bigotry’ has it exactly wrong -- students are not supposed to ‘handle’ bigotry, especially on a routine basis. The school is supposed to take action to make sure students don't have to confront bigotry on a regular basis. All students and parents have an interest in holding them to that. A school with these kinds of divisions is a worse school for everyone and an embarrassment to the community.”