A Oregon school district has suspended a kindergarten bus driver for hanging a Confederate flag on his personal vehicle, saying he is in violation of their harassment policies.
According to the Associated Press, Ken Webber, 28, was suspended from the bus company First Student, Inc., which contracts buses to the Phoenix-Talent School District, after he ignored commands from school officials to take the flag off his personal pick-up truck. The flag also has “Redneck” emblazoned on the front.
Webber drives the kindergarten bus to Talent Elementary School.
“My flag will fly,” Webber told the AP. “No one here is gonna tell me what I can and can’t believe in.”
According to Oregon CBS affiliate KTVL, First Student said in a statement that, “This is an internal personnel issue that is currently under investigation.”
The Phoenix-Talent School District also told KTVL that Webber was in violation of a harassment policy that outlaws pictures or objects that are offensive, tend to alarm, annoy, abuse or demean certain protected individuals and groups.
“The fact is, our district is about 37 percent minority students,” Ben Bergreen, the school’s superintendent, told the AP. “It’s fairly common knowledge that the Confederate battle flag is perceived by folks as a racist or negative symbol. The Southern Poverty Law Center said more than 500 extremist groups use it as one of their symbols.”
Bergreen spotted the flag on the truck parked in the schoolyard last month and was the person who prompted Webber’s supervisor to have him take it down.
“It’s about fighting for state rights,” Webber told KTVL. “It’s a way of life. It’s who you are. It has nothing to do with racism.”
Webber told the AP that he would stand for himself in court.
Public display of the Confederate flag has long been a source of debate among Americans.
The Confederate flag is an issue that has prompted supporters of the Detroit branch of the NAACP recently to announce plans to boycott the city’s annual fundraiser, the Detroit Arms. According to The Detroit News, singer Kid Rock is set to receive the NAACP’s Great Expectations Award at the event. But Adolph Mongo, leader of the city’s Detroit for Progress organization said he would not attend the event, due to Kid Rock’s continued use of the Confederate flag at his concerts.
“It’s a slap in the face for anyone who fought for civil rights in this country,” Mongo told The Detroit News. “It’s a symbol of hatred and bigotry.”