A controversy has arisen in Bedford County, Virginia, surrounding the case of Christopher Hartless, a student at Staunton River High School.
According to WSET 13, a school policy prohibited him from flying American flags from the back of his pickup truck. When he refused to comply with this rule, his parking pass was revoked.
In response, Hartless declared that he was exercising his First Amendment right and was supported by his stepmother Christina Kingery who decided to homeschool her stepson unless he was allowed to display the flags.
“My family fought for America, and I feel like I should be able to represent the flag that they fought for,” Hartless said.
The school sent out a weekend reminder, seemingly due in part to the recent controversy, which stated that the “student parking contract, which has been used by all 3 of our high schools for many years, states, ‘Large flags or banners are not allowed to be flown or displayed on vehicles due to their distractive nature.'”
Administrators highlighted the fact that parents and students agree to the policy upon signing up for a school parking pass.
Despite this notice, Hartless showed up with his flags still displayed on Monday, leading to his parking pass being revoked and the subsequent decision to homeschool him.
When questioned about the potential of distraction from such flags, Hartless pointed out that the school also has an American flag on its flagpole – visible to all other students.
Kingery, who also spoke to reporters, said that if this is what the teenager believes in, both she and the young man’s father “are both going to stand behind him all the way to the end of it.”
“If they’re willing to change and let kids want to fly the American flag, then I’ll put him back in Staunton River … possibly put him back in Staunton River,” Kingery said after Hartless corrected her.
“But if they don’t, then I’m going to continue to let him fly his flags,” she added.
Bedford County school system responded to ABC 13 and reiterated the policy before stating that the “underlying concern is student safety and whether or not a banner or flag is large enough to create a distraction for other drivers. … Students are certainly welcome to have small American flags or stickers of the American flag on their cars.”
“Prior to obtaining the required parking permit, both the student and parent must sign the contract to indicate that they have read and understood the rules, procedures, and expectations for the student driver and that any violation of these rules could result in loss of the privilege to drive and park at school. That stated, we do not comment on individual student disciplinary matters,” administrators added.
School policy permits the wearing of clothing decorated with the American flag.