More than 20 students at a Virginia high school were suspended for wearing clothing displaying the Confederate flag during a rally protesting the school's new rules, which ban the display of the emblem on cars and trucks.
“We value our students’ First Amendment rights, but we must maintain an orderly and safe environment for all students,” spokeswoman for the Christiansburg High School Brenda Drake said in a statement, according to the Roanoke Times. “Incidents of racial tension at CHS support the continued prohibition of the Confederate flag in the building.”
Students have to sign a contract agreeing not to display the flag to receive a school parking pass.
Houston Miller, one of the students at the Montgomery County school who received a one-day suspension told the Associated Press he doesn't intend to back down. Miller said he plans to show up tomorrow wearing Confederate flag gear because he believes he should have the right to wear whatever he wants.
The school said that Miller and 14 other students received one-day suspensions after they refused to take off clothing displaying the flag, which is against its dress code.
Two students were suspended for two additional days for disruptive behavior. Another four students received in-school suspensions.
Display of the Confederate flag has been a contentious issue in Virginia and other parts of the South since a white gunman killed nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June. The suspect in the killings revered the flag in photos posted online.
The controversy led the South Carolina legislature to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the statehouse in July.
In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe shortly after the killings ordered the removal of the Confederate flag from state-issued license plates.
A circuit court judge in Virginia's Patrick County removed a portrait of a Confederate general from the courtroom in August.
"Confederate symbols are, simply put, offensive to African-Americans," the judge, Martin Clark, said in a statement about the portrait.
Al Jazeera and wire services