Travelers Rest (S.C.) High School Principal Lou Lavely reversed his position Monday on barring Travelers Rest students from bringing US flags to sporting events and will now allow flags to be flown once again.
The decision came amidst uproar from the community after administrators took away at least one student’s flag and banned others from bringing flags to a football game against Berea (Greenville, S.C.) High School last Friday.
Lavely made the decision to ban the flags based on past incidents in which Travelers Rest students “used the US flag, in conjunction with verbal taunts, to target Hispanic members of the Berea community in a manner that was both unsportsmanlike and also a misuse of our flag,” said Beth Brotherton, Greenville County Schools spokeswoman.
Lavely did not make his decision based on whether the flag offended members of the Berea community and “vehemently denies believing or stating that the flag might be offensive to that community,” she said.
Lavely said he banned the flags because he didn’t want them to be used in a disrespectful and unsportsmanlike way to taunt Berea. According to its 2015 state report card, Berea has a sizeable Hispanic population, with 35 percent white, 31 Hispanic, 30 percent African-American and 4 percent other races.
Alivia Waynick, a senior at Travelers Rest, said she brought her American flag to display patriotism at Travelers Rest’s first home game. While sitting in the student section, she said she was approached by an administrator.
“An administrator walked up behind me and said ‘No American flags,’ and I asked why and they said ‘because it could offend someone,” Waynick said. “When they told me I had to put it away, I respected their authority and I took my flag and put it up.”
The decision to ban the flags raised questions in the Berea community, where many posted on social media that they were not offended by the flag, and in Travelers Rest, where the city’s police chief, Lance Crowe, said he disagreed with Lavely’s decision to ban people from bringing flags to the game.
“It’s bigger than just the school,” he said. “You know, the city of Travelers Rest, our image and our brand, we’re starting to be known nationally right now as a high school that won’t allow an American flag to be flown. It’s the way it’s being said and that’s kind of an unfair oversimplification, but I have to worry about the image of the Travelers Rest Police Department and the city of Travelers Rest, too.”