Confederate sweater stirs school debate

Posted at 11:51 AM, Sep 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-27 11:51:17-04

ELCHO, WI (WAOW/CNN) - A student wearing a Confederate flag sweater to school has sparked a heated debate that has made it to the school board of a rural Wisconsin town Monday.

"It's just a sweatshirt," said Steve Spurgeon, whose son wore the sweater. "It didn't mean anything, and now it's out of hand with this."

Dozens voiced their opinion to the Elcho school board on whether Confederate flag items should be allowed at school. Spurgeon said his son had been "put through the mill with this conflict."

"Here, if you talk to these kids that are flying the flags, you talk to the families who fly this flag, it is not a symbol of racism," said parent Jennifer McCarthy. "It's not a symbol of anything but a rebel symbol."

Samantha Denamur, a student, disagreed, calling it racist.

"The fact that you don't see that means your school system failed you," Denamur said.

She first spoke out against the sweatshirt earlier this month, saying it made her uncomfortable, and she said she had been harassed for it.

"Anybody that knows me knows I'm not a hater, I fly the flag every day and I'm proud to fly the flag," said parent Matt Becker.

Becker also showed his tattoo of the Confederate symbol on his forearm.

"I was offended by the Confederate flag," said another man at the meeting. "I think it's come to mean a symbol of hate."

The school board members said they'll be asking legal counsel for help.

"The school board is appreciative of your concerns but also understands it needs to find a reasonable balance between the speech rights of individual students and the protection of the educational environment for all of our students," said Dave Visser, school board president.

Multiple community members agreed on one thing: The matter has been blown way out of proportion.

Copyright 2017 WAOW via CNN. All rights reserved.