It is reassuring to know we live in a nation where a racist goon is free to incite a black audience to wage war against “capitalist bloodsucker America,” but a patriotic autistic child is prohibited from waving the Stars and Stripes.
Both stories are headlined at The Blaze, and the contrast is striking, even if the central figure in the first story—New Black Panther leader Malik Shabazz—is so extreme that he has managed to marginalize himself and his group.
I nevertheless stand behind Shabazz’s constitutionally protected right to speak his mind, right up until the point where he shouts “Fire” in a crowded theater (a point he is dangerously close to reaching). I am equally supportive of the First Amendment rights of 12-year-old Shawn Stevens, of Dover, New Hampshire. Those rights haven’t prevented officials at the middle school he attends from confiscating his American flag because the rod it is attached to is viewed as a potential “weapon.”
The child’s mother, Theresa Stevens, states that Shawn, who is autistic, brought the flag to school to show friends. He had received it as a gift from a family friend whose son is in Afghanistan. To her dismay, she received a phone call that morning telling her “this flag needs to be immediately removed from school because it can be considered a weapon.”
The school’s Co-Principal Kimberly Lyndes told the Fosters Daily Democrat that the problem wasn’t patriotism but safety, adding:
A student came to school yesterday with a flag that was rather large and didn’t fit inside the backpack. A staff member felt that it could potentially be dangerous because of the pointy end and took the item and let the student know and the parent know that they took the item and could pick it up.
But as Teresa Stevens correctly notes, students routinely carry sharp-tipped items, such as compasses and pencils, to school. When she argued that these standard school supplies could also be classified as “possible weapons,” Stevens claims she was told, “Well, we don’t let [students] wave them around in class, and your son has autism.”
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