Penalty of politics at school

Brooklyn Northcross '20, Supervising Page Editor

Stars and stripes decorated the student section. Red, white and blue radiated with Blue Devil pride. The unity of South was as strong as ever, until a Trump flag began waving in the wind. 

On Friday, Oct. 18, administration confiscated a “Trump 2020” flag from a group of students after it was waved both on the track and in the American-themed student section at the North vs. South football game.

“I received word that a “Trump 2020” flag was being waved by our Devil’s Den, which is our spirit club and one of our officially recognized student groups,” principal Moussa Hamka said. “I asked them to not wave the flag, and then we put it in a box. A short time later, the flag was being hung and displayed on our fence on a railing.”

According to Devil’s Den President Evelyn Kuhnlein ’20, the students waving the flag were not associated with Devil’s Den. 

“We understand that we cannot endorse political candidates,” Kuhlein said. “To my, and the knowledge of Devil’s Den leadership, the students with the flag were on the track for tug-of-war and not representing Devil’s Den.”

Hamka said he, along with athletic director and assistant principal Chris Booth, articulated to the students that they can’t promote a candidate for the 2020 election as an official student group.

“Our Devil’s Den, as an officially recognized student group, can’t endorse candidates, whether that’s for mayor, city council or president,” Hamka said. “That’s not what their job is. They’re not a political group– they are a pep group.”

According to the “High School Operations” section of the Grosse Pointe South Handbook,  which can be found on page 56 of the 2019-2020 student planner, “no political advertisements may be displayed in or on School System facilities”.

“If a student in the stands was waving the flag, we have no issue with that– however, it can’t be put on school property,” Hamka said. “That means you can’t hang signs in our halls without having it approved by an administrator– that also goes for the outside on our fences. You could wave whatever flag you want. You just can’t display that on our school property.”

Hamka said there were two violations of school policy in this incident.  The first violation was the group on the track waving the flag– they were in violation because they were representing South and the “2020” on the flag represented political advertisement. After being asked to put it away and then draping it over the fence, he said, students were in violation because the flag was being hung from school property.

Caroline Kubek ’20 said she was standing on the track waiting to participate in the tug-of-war when she was waving the flag with her friend Maddy Hass ’20. She said she believes the flag had no political campaigning intents, regardless of the “2020” written on the flag.

“When the students brought the flag, they brought it because there was an American theme– he is our president,” Kubek said. ”It’s not trying to show what person to support in the election. We were not trying to get political.”

Christina Thomas ’21 said it is not fair to other students who hold different opinions– the flag being waved on the track appeared to have been representing the whole student section.

While I do believe that everyone has the right to express themselves, particularly their political opinions, I do think that the timing was inappropriate and the group that chose to do it was inappropriate,” Thomas said.

Kubek said she disagrees with the actions of administration– them confiscating the flag was unfair.

“It goes against the First Amendment about freedom,” Kubek said. “If this was Hillary flag or a Bernie flag, none of this would have happened– I feel like people bully Trump supporters pretty bad.”

According to Hamka, the freedom of speech is one of the greatest values people have in this country, as it allows them to speak their mind and say what they feel.

“We’re not trying to take away anyone’s freedom of speech,” Hamka said. “We are just saying that as a school, we can’t officially endorse a candidate. We wouldn’t let our football team, cheerleaders or even Devil’s Den walk out with any type of political statements supporting a candidate.”

Hamka said administration has the duty to encourage students to be engaged in the civic process appropriately– taking the flag was not an effort to silence political opinions.

We believe that, as citizens of the United States, you have a civic duty to be informed,to vote and to have your voice heard,” Hamka said. “I think it’s imperative that future generations stay invested and committed to political process and engagement.”