Students protest school's ban on Confederate flags

Hunter D'Antuono and Liz Kearney
By Hunter D'Antuono

A group of Park High School students on Friday flew Confederate, United States and other flags from their vehicles just outside of school property in protest of the school administration's recent policy prohibiting the display of Confederate flags on school grounds.

Park High adopted the policy after Confederate flags attached to two students’ pickup trucks the previous Friday caused an uproar and proved a major disruption to classes that day, school officials said. The flying of the flags that Friday was preceded in the weeks before by reports of alleged racial comments by students, school officials said. 

Students flying the flags in protest to the policy Friday said they were defending their right to expression. 

"It's basically a protest of it being banned from school grounds," said Sam Rockafellow, a Park High sophomore and lifelong Livingston resident who flew a Confederate flag from his pickup truck Friday. "They are trying to ban it from America altogether." 

"I would say it's history," Rockafellow said of the Confederate flag. "Getting rid of this from the history books would be a big ol' slap in the face to America."  

Rockafellow said he's received "dirty looks from people" and heard people whispering about his flag flying. 

"People would consider me a racist for having this flag. I think the exact opposite," he said. "The exact opposite is being kind to every religion and race. Everyone gets a fair shake in my book."   

Rockafellow's pickup truck was among 10 other vehicles with flags lined up against the fence of the softball fields at Miles Park. Five of the rigs displayed Confederate flags, just across the road from the back entrance to the school's parking lot. Meanwhile, at least two pickups flying United States flags were parked inside the school parking lot. 

Claire Brown, also a sophomore, whose family is from Alabama said, “People are going to get offended over everything and judge you no matter what. This is part of our history." 

The line of vehicles dispersed without incident at Miles Park after school let out Friday afternoon. Before students left for the day, Livingston Police could be seen circling the area in their patrol vehicles. 

"I just got dirty looks from people," Rockafellow said before he left. "I could care less what people think."  

Principal Lynne Scalia said the school will be holding a parent meeting on Tuesday titled, "Helping our Kids – Civility and Respect in Times of Polarizing Politics,” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Park High School Library.