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Sep 15 - High School Senior Wears Racist T-Shirt To School

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Sep 15 - High School Senior Wears Racist T-Shirt To School

Fleming senior wears racist T-shirt to school
Incident triggered fight; no criminal charges filed. He has left the school.

"What's up with your shirt?" Those are the words a former senior at Fleming Island High School remembers hearing as he walked from his fifth-period algebra cla$s toward the gym. The 18-year-old, who is not being identified due to his family's concerns of safety, had just taken off his Dixie Outfitter T-shirt, exposing a highly offensive shirt.

"What about it?" replied the 18-year-old, skinny and white.

"Well, you know it's racial," said a black student, now in a group confronting the 18-year-old.

"Yeah. So?"

The undershirt the white student wore had a confederate flag on the front with the words "Keep it flying." On the back, a cartoon depicted a group of hooded Klansmen standing outside a church, waving to two others who had just pulled away in a car reading "Just married."

Two black men in nooses were being dragged behind.

Upset by the shirt, a 17-year-old black student hit the white student in the head. A crowd of about 100 students gathered to watch the Aug. 29 fight before authorities intervened.

The white student said he left the school following a three-day suspension. He said he was supposed to go back on a Friday but school officials called and asked his family to keep him home until the following week because "the school's in an uproar."

"Everybody was threatening to come jump me, so we were like, whatever," he said. "So I'm not going to deal with it over some stupid shirt."

Clay County school officials said the incident is isolated and both students involved were disciplined "quickly and appropriately," although they would not release specifics citing privacy concerns.

"There's no way you can prevent it when you've got students coming and bringing an attitude like that to school," said Ben Wortham, deputy superintendent.

Principal Sam Ward said Fleming Island High School's dress code prohibits such apparel, but faculty were unaware the student wore the shirt because it was covered.

"If this kid had this shirt on for very long, some teacher or administrator would have gotten him," Ward said. "... When you put this many people together, every once in a while you're gonna have somebody that does something immature and wrong."

Sgt. Darin Lee of the Clay County Sheriff's Office investigated the altercation and found no criminal action.

Lee said the white student didn't want to press charges against the 17-year-old who hit him. Offensive as it may have been, the former student's shirt is protected by free speech, Lee added.

The white student, who is now enrolled at a community college, said he got the shirt about a week before the incident for $10 at a flea market. He said he typically took off his shirt on the way to the gym, and on that day he didn't think about what he wore underneath.

He said he put the shirt on in the morning because he planned to wear it to a party that night with others who, like him, had enlisted in the Marines.

"I'm not racist or anything," he said. "It's just, some people I hate, some people I don't get along with. And black people just happen to be the ones because they think they're better than everyone else."

The student said his parents were shocked at his decision, Mom dismayed and Dad disappointed.

"I just can't believe you'd wear a shirt like that to school," he said was their reaction. "My mom was kind of upset about it. My dad was like, whatever, it's your life."

The 18-year-old said he has friends who are black, and he said he does not think they would be mad at him because they know he would not do what was depicted on the shirt.

Although a friend has borrowed the shirt, the man said it is "more than likely" he'll keep it in his own wardrobe.

"I'm a redneck," he said. "But no, I'm not racist."

 http://www.jacksonville.c .. 19772830.shtml


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