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Freedom to Hate: Weighting First Amendment Rights Against School Violence--A Case Study

NCJ Number
Journal of School Violence Volume: 6 Issue: 4 Dated: 2007 Pages: 149-163
H. Roy Kaplan
Date Published
15 pages
The study sites a Florida case example to discuss issues that challenge stability and safety in schools
Districts that develop comprehensive cultural competency programs for staff and students that promote understanding and interaction among different cultural groups can reduce the probability of conflict and violence. River Run High School was the site for a case study of student conflict precipitated by the wearing and displaying of Confederate flags on campus. Located in a rural part of Florida that flew the Confederate flag over its capital until 2001, River Run has nearly 2,000 students and is predominantly (90 percent) White. Following a series of tense student encounters over Confederate and other racist symbols, a conflict resolution team created a series of student dialogues involving the disputants. Conversations revealed the basis of the conflict emanated from misunderstandings over history, stereotypical views of ethnic groups, and inadequate lines of communication. Behaviors like displaying the Confederate flag have less to do with infatuation with the past, and more to do with fear, insecurity, and misunderstanding about the present. This case highlights the emergence of interpersonal conflicts in schools that result from clashes of culture, class, and ethnicity, and reveals that students can be very effective in mediating such conflicts with adult guidance. Even in districts that promote and support multicultural education, schools can experience conflict that may originate off campus from parents or outside agitators pursuing their own agendas. Because of their psychological immaturity and impulsivity, adolescents are a pliable resource that can be exploited for such purposes. References


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