St. Francis student gets Confederate flag tattoo, is suspended indefinitely

Categories: Tattoos
Neal Carlson.jpg
KSTP
Freedom of speech, offensive behavior, or just flat-out bad tattoo?
Neal Carlson, an 18-year-old senior at St. Francis High School, thinks his new Confederate-flag-blending-into-American-flag tattoo "summarizes pretty much the whole history of the U.S."

His school district's superintendent doesn't see it quite the same way, and suspended Carlson until he agrees to cover up the tattoo while at school. Carlson, however, has no plans to conceal his stars-and-bars clad tricep.

Couldn't he have just waited until the end of his senior year to exercise his right to bad tattoos?

Superintendent Ed Saxton told KSTP that Carlson's tattoo is a violation of the school's dress code.

"He made a bad decision and there's a consequence from a school standpoint," he said. "He had a choice and selected his consequence."
Neal Carlson tat.jpg
KSTP
Carlson said everyone likes his new tat. He must not have any black friends.

Carlson acknowledged that some might view the tattoo as offensive, but said he's actually received nothing but positive feedback.

"Everyone [besides the superintendent] said they like it," he said, adding that he believes the suspension violates his right to free speech.

He may be indefinitely suspended from school, but, following in the footsteps of free speech crusaders like Thomas Jefferson, Carlson has no plans to bow to authority and cover the tattoo.

"I'm just going to keep on wearing what I want to wear and if school doesn't like if they can keep suspending me for it," he said.

Just remember to wear a long-sleeve shirt when you show up for your job interview at the local fast food joint, kid.


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132 comments
gypsyviruses
gypsyviruses

Sorry, centipede coming through

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Ryan Martin
Ryan Martin

ALABAMA STATE FLAG still has the bars yall so this dude should have every right to express his favorite conservative state XD He couldda done a better job on this tat tho, it looks like something I could draw with sharpie in maybe 15 mins. :P 

Northeast Laser Tattoo Removal
Northeast Laser Tattoo Removal

 If everyone on this blog who hates this kid's tattoo wants to donate a buck to the cause, we'd be happy to remove it for him!

Johnnyrtsen
Johnnyrtsen

I like the comment  "Just remember to wear a long-sleeve shirt when you show up for your job interview at the local fast food joint, kid." Or, writing shitty articles for a free paper Aaron.

Pete
Pete

The tattoo is ugly, I've seen way better looking redneck confederate flag tattoos, but I admire the tenacity of this kid, we cannot allow our first amendment rights to be eroded by what is and isn't deemed politically correct.

Guest
Guest

i like how the stripes on the flag arent uniform, really well done tattoo.  /end_sarcasm

Shelby Ellis
Shelby Ellis

its either a fake tattoo or the artist should be shut down because it is horrible

Chasse
Chasse

As a black American who attended this school... I support his right to have,this tattoo. Freedom of speech is very important to our rights and beliefs. Nothing makes me more upset than those who claim it and then turn around and condemn it. fact is this student will live the rest of his life with that tattoo and possible belief. Though this same student will give birth to a son/ daughter who will bring home another race as a spouse... On that day he will have to choose... The same way my wife's father had to... Your child loves black men and he can choose to be apart of their life or not. Because in the end... We all know... Our kids do what they feel is right., and no amount of hatred will stop that.

May you live a long and unfilled life with at least 5 grandchildren which none are Caucasian.

Guest
Guest

This kid is going to now be banned from most well-paying jobs.  If he wants to get anywhere in life, his only choice will be to start his own company.  Hope he's a genius...

Kayla
Kayla

i went to st. francis (sadly) and nobody i knew ever had to cover their tattoos. there was nothign from what i remember saying tattoos couldnt show. yes it is stupid that he got it, freedom for everyone is such an important part of history but i still cant say it enough..it is HIS body, HIS life, FREEDOM OF SPEECH & if it isnt getting in the way with his school work(which i know it isnt because how can a tattoo cause your work to be late etc) then there shouldnt be a problem!! at St. Francis for as LONG as i remember the truck line has had confederate flags hanging in their windows and whatnot. Why arent they suspended or anything? its stupid and that school has ALWAYS played favorites.

Brittany Maxwell
Brittany Maxwell

Good ole St. Franny. There are a few issues here. First of all, this student should have known better, tattoos are against the dress code. He had the option to cover it up, but he decided to be a "rebel" which I'm sure has something to do with his tattoo choice as well. Secondly, if he truly believes his tattoo represents American history, that is his own ignorance that he will now have to suffer with for the rest of his life (along with a poorly done tattoo, good lord that thing is ugly!). Ed Saxton DOES need to get fired, and when I went to this school, there was a huge dispute between the Administration and The Crier, the student newspaper, for censorship, I was a photo editor at the time and it was a big deal...all over the local news stations. It seems St. Francis is getting a bad rep for racism and censorship. I think I may disown them as my alma mater...

I do have one question though that I never understood, why do people from the northern states feel the need to sport the confederate flag? For god sake, you were born and raised in yankee territory! Go live in South Carolina if you feel that strongly. Geesh! 

Bruce Edmund Carroll
Bruce Edmund Carroll

Where I went for High School they allowed tattoos as long as the tattoo was not in poor taste.

Michelle Green
Michelle Green

Solid tattoo.  The kid's got guts and that's all that matters in todays world so I give him a big pat on the back for standing up for what he believes in.  Even if your thoughts are offensive for some, it is ok to express them according to Thomas Jefferson in a free society.

EmbarassingHistory
EmbarassingHistory

Point of order on the flags/nationality of the slave ships:  Although some slave ships certainly flew under the US Flag, virtually ALL of them flew under the Union Jack and were owned by British trade companies. Those same companies took advantage of inter-tribal warfare (some accounts say the Brits encouraged these wars) in Africa to pit one tribe against the other and collected POWs for transport and sale to the US.

perlhaqr
perlhaqr

That's the Confederate Battle Flag, not the "Stars and Bars", which refers to the First National Flag of the Confederacy and looks significantly different.

Pedantically yours,

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

Who said they like that? It looks like it was done with magic marker? Is he the only country boy that didn't travel to either the big city or prison to get a tattoo? Bush. League.

Jhartleyjr2013
Jhartleyjr2013

Sorry, but, if you are WHITE..anything you do is offensive. His is a symbol of history...NOW, do blacks get expelled for PANTHER tattoos..a symbol if BLACK POWER..NO. leave him alone and send the superintendent BROCHURE to CUBA

C_rootes
C_rootes

By the looks of the pics, this looks like it was done with a sharpie! He probably keeps coloring it back in when it fades...WHAT A DUMBASS!!

hi.
hi.

The Confederate flag does not represent and never has represented racism. It is a symbol of southern heritage, representing freedom, states rights, individual responsibility, and resistance to an out of control federal government. It may be true that some racists have used the Confederate flag, but racists also wave the American flag. Consider this: No slave ship ever sailed from a Confederate port or under a Confederate flag. On the contrary, virtually every American slave ship was from either New York or one of the New England states and they all sailed under the United States Flag. Also, at the time of the American Civil War, slavery had been practiced in every state and colony in America and was still being practiced in several northern states, under the Stars and Stripes, even during the War Between the States.Ulysses S. Grant, commanding general of the United States Army during the Civil War was a slave holder. Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army, was against slavery. The Confederate constitution outlawed the slave trade and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, proposed a plan to end slavery altogether. There were more free blacks, and also more abolitionists, in the South than in the North. Also, tens of thousands of black soldiers fought for the Confederate States of America in a war which they considered a second American revolution, "War for Southern Independence."Unfortunately racist groups have used the Confederate flag in recent years, but those same groups, especially the Ku Klux Klan, have historically used the American flag for a much longer period of time.The truth is, neither the American Flag nor the Confederate Flag is racist. If people who are racists fly either flag, that does not mean the flag itself represents racism.And let's not shit-talk St. Francis. It's a good school with good, accepting people who like to stand up for what they believe in. Nothing wrong with that. Martin Luther King Jr. did it, am I right? Yes.

suckitfrance
suckitfrance

What a shitty, arrogant way to end the article. This guy is a tool, but so is the author. I can't stand the entitled arrogance of the "writers" for the city pages anymore. Go put a what would wellstone do sticker on the Volkswagen your parents bought you and troll uptown for specials on PBR you judgemental fuck.

Nialix
Nialix

Whoever did that tattoo should be ashamed of how crappy it looks. Also the legal tattoo age should be moved up to 21, unless the kid can present a list of like 15 good reasons why they should get the tattoo they want... I am so tired of seeing super shitty tatts

michael trevor barrett
michael trevor barrett

i agree 100%, i graduated from the same school in 98 and there were times i went to school in full freak/punk drag!!!!!!!  with a plaid miniskirt, fishnet stockings, my hair spiked in a mo-hawk and make-up.  i say keep on preaching son!!!!!!!!!

Dan Frye
Dan Frye

 I can't begin to count the number of times I've seen someone with a Confederate flag tattoo, t-shirt, truck mural etc. and said what an upstanding and intelligent individual. I'm sure all the MENSA members with confederate flag tattoos will come to his rescue.

Chez0
Chez0

To all concerned about legality... Here is the district's policy on dress restrictions. 

The following specific items are regulated or restricted:No hats, caps or visors of any type are to be worn on campus by any student during the school day;Sunglasses may not be worn on campus during the school day;No chains may be attached to clothing or backpacks;Body piercing, nose rings or posts, or tattoos are unacceptable for all students;Earrings must conform to the standards of good taste and appropriateness;Military or camouflage clothing of any kind is not permitted;Blue jeans or pants that look like blue jeans are not permitted;Denim shirts, skirts, dresses or jackets are not permitted;Words or graphics on shirts and outerwear are limited to pocket-sized logos or Saint Francis High School graphics.

Them's the rules, approved by publicly elected board members. The school reserves the right to provide disciplinary action if a student does not comply. This is done to ensure an atmosphere conducive to teaching and learning, and protecting each student's right to learn. If the school officials feel the tattoo is disruptive and needs to be covered up they are well within their rights to insist that it is. If the kid doesn't want to cover it up as requested, after knowing the consequence is indefinite suspension, then he is making the decision to not attend. 

It's not a free speech issue. He exercised his free speech in getting the tattoo. Nobody is taking that away from him. However in order to have the privilege of going to a public school he needs to abide by the rules like everyone else. As an example, you can't  go to high school naked, even if you were exercising your free speech rights as a nudist. You'd probably go to jail, in fact.

MN Capitol News
MN Capitol News

People, including me, find the symbolism behind the flag offensive. But what I find more offensive is the School district kicking the kid out of school for excercising his consititutional right to free speech. Oh and this article ny Mr. Rupar for being so condensending to an 18 year old who at worst excercised a poor choice and at best had the courage of his conviction to stand up to adults who'd shred his rights in pursuit of political correctness. There are so many Supreme Court rulings that uphold these rights Anoka must have a hankering for a court fight. Lastly, when did it become, "cool" for a reporter to thow his snarky judgement at people without the bully pulpit to respond?

iarpo17
iarpo17

@Chasse The Confederate Flag is not racist, nor does it stand for racism. History is written by the victors. Did you know the first slave owner in the US was a black man? The Union only freed slaves in the South, they still had slaves in the North. The war was not about slavery, it was about the Union gaining more power and individual states losing rights.

Sam I am.
Sam I am.

I just wish that slavery never happened in this country.  If the white man back in the day could see how the black man in America would eventually destroy this great nation, he would have said, "STOP THE BOATS!!"  We'll pick our own goddamn cotton!!!!

Just Sayin'.......

Michelle Bachmann
Michelle Bachmann

So to paraphrase your point the Confederacy opposed slavery and was loved by black people and Martin Luther King, Jr. is exactly like this kid?     I can tell the St. Francis school system is really a great school system if it produces great thinkers like you. 

Guy
Guy

Wellstone was a good man. Volkswagens are quality vehicles. CityPages HQ is in the warehouse district, not uptown. And PBR is a decent enough beer for the price.

Your strawman actually seems like a pretty cool guy, unlike the subject of this blog post, who is a real person and is clearly a douche.

As long as we're making wild assumptions about people, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that, while you project a hatred for all hipsters, the person you hate the most is...suckitfrance.

suckitfrance
suckitfrance

No, it shouldn't be you nanny state retard. If you can be drafted to kill brown people for 'murrica, you can get a stupid tattoo. If you're tired of seeing shitty tats id be more than happy gouge your eyes out for you.

Definition please...
Definition please...

"Body piercing, nose rings or posts, or tattoos are unacceptable for all students" = VAGUE. It does not say anything about covering or that you will be suspended, it says that it is unacceptable. The policy (as quoted here) also says that you may not wear earrings unless they "conform to the standards of good taste and appropriateness". Well, what would THAT be?!?!

Policy is not written well. Too much room for individual terms and interpretations. How do they define unacceptable and good taste, not to mention appropriateness?

I love BLUEJEANS!!
I love BLUEJEANS!!

WTF?!?! 

I'd be WAY more pissed that I couldn't wear jeans or anything made from denim on school grounds over that ignorant and VERY badly done ink. Seriously!?!? I would need a whole new wardrobe!!

Marty Owings
Marty Owings

Mr Chez,It doesn't matter what the school, board, city council or other local body passes, if it's illegal according to the Supreme Court it violates the constitution. Your comparison to nudity is invalid because the Court has already ruled on that as well and it's considered indecent exposure, whereas a rebel flag, peace sign, swastica and even the words fuck you have been ruled protected free speech by the high court.

So you're wrong again, thank goodness and it definitely is a free speech issue. As much as you may like to see this sort of exercise of free speech restricted, it isn't. Public institutions are constantly testing this and so far the High Court has ruled to uphold the first amendment. I hope you get that this is a slippery slope and that restricting some kinds of speech opens the door to restricting other kinds of free speech.

amiller92
amiller92

If they have a content-neutral rule that says cover all tattoos and some evidence of disruption, they aren't necessarily on shaky legal ground.

Michelle Bachmann
Michelle Bachmann

Maybe people are getting fuck sick of stupid racist trash like sam I am and the idiot the article is about.   The only thing to do with idiots like you is to laugh and ridicule.   City Pages and all the hipster liberal hippies on here don't need to change, assholes like you need to change.   I'm sick of the racist trash that makes the world a shittier place to live.   I could either mock and ridicule them or get violent.   Luckily I prefer to laugh than be miserable so I will continue to mock this stupid kid while being so fucking happy I was never stupid enough to get a confederate flag tattoo.  Only losers and cowards like the most famous symbol of losers and cowards.  (The Confederate Flag)     Think how cool that tattoo will look as he takes the fries out of the grease. 

Sam I am.
Sam I am.

Because City Pages is run by fringe Liberals.  They can't think for themselves, so when a topic like this comes up, they have to resort to juvenile language to make their case.

Dave
Dave

Go be a bigot somewhere else.

hi.
hi.

Obviously you don't know much about American history if you don't even understand what I was saying. And St. Francis is a good school, bitch.

Guy
Guy

Your continued lizard-brain babbling is the best case I've seen for the curbing of free speech.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that threats of physical harm aren't protected under the first amendment. You'd be wise to get yourself in check, sir.

Chez0
Chez0

It is intentionally vague I would imagine in order to give the administration room to exercise good judgement and determine individual cases based on individual circumstance. It's probably written that way also to prevent "loophole seekers" from taking advantage of a policy that is too specific. I don't imagine that they punish every minor infraction, but if the staff/administrators determine that a violation of this dress code is having a negative impact on student learning, this policy gives them the leverage to do something to correct it.

Actually I think the policy on body piercings, nose rings/posts and tattoos is pretty definitive. They are unacceptable for all students. They aren't allowed: pretty cut and dry. 

Now don't get me wrong...I have nothing against tattoos, piercings or anything like that. I have a problem with students disrespecting other students by disrupting what should be school learning time. 

Chez0
Chez0

Actually the kind of speech you describe has not been ruled as protected in a public school.  

BETHEL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 403 ET AL. v. FRASER, A MINOR, ET AL.

This is actually a rather good comparison. The student was told by the administration to not give a speech containing sexual innuendo under penalty of suspension. He gave the speech and was suspended. Then he sued and lost after a lengthy court battle. 

This supreme court finding holds that "These fundamental values of "habits and manners of civility" essential to a democratic society must, of course, include tolerance of divergent political and religious views, even when the views expressed may be unpopular. But these "fundamental values" must also take into account consideration of the sensibilities of others, and, in the case of a school, the sensibilities of fellow students. The undoubted freedom to advocate unpopular and controversial views in schools and classrooms must be balanced against the society's countervailing interest in teaching students the boundaries of socially appropriate behavior. Even the most heated political discourse in a democratic society requires consideration for the personal sensibilities of the other participants and audiences.

In our Nation's legislative halls, where some of the most vigorous political debates in our society are carried on, there are rules prohibiting the use of expressions offensive to other participants in the debate. The Manual of Parliamentary Practice, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by the House of Representatives to govern the proceedings in that body, prohibits the use of "impertinent" speech during debate and likewise provides that "[no] person is to use indecent language against the proceedings of the House."  The Rules of Debate applicable in the Senate likewise provide that a Senator may be called to order for imputing improper motives to another Senator or for referring offensively to any state.  Can it be that what is proscribed in the halls of Congress is beyond the reach of school officials to regulate?

The First Amendment guarantees wide freedom in matters of adult public discourse. A sharply divided Court upheld the right to express an antidraft viewpoint in a public place, albeit in terms highly offensive to most citizens. See Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971). It does not follow, however, that simply because the use of an offensive form of expression may not be prohibited to adults making what the speaker considers a political point, the same latitude must be permitted to children in a public school. In New Jersey v. T. L. O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985), we reaffirmed that the constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings."

So if his actions are in violation of school policy and the school feels that it is disruptive to the learning environment, then it is within their rights to discipline the student in accordance with their policies. 

I get the slippery slope argument, and it makes sense if we were talking about adults, but these are kids and they are in a school. Maybe this student is 18, but there are other kids in the school who aren't. Discipline can't be maintained to create a learning environment if the students have free reign to do or say whatever they want without consequence. The school must retain its ability to create an environment conducive to learning if it is to carry out its mission.

Let's take this to the adult world...if someone worked for a company, let's say an airline, that had a specific dress code, and in that dress code there was a specific ban on tattoos, but a pilot decided to get one on his/her face. Would that pilot be fired? Absolutely. Without question. Would they win a battle in court that the company was restricting their right to free speech? Nope. Why do we respect the policies of companies to limit free speech of employees and fight school policies? This guy has every right to display his tattoo in a public space. It could be a swastika or a cuss word and he'd have the same right...however that doesn't mean that he can't be kicked out of a store for it, not hired for it, fired for it, or suspended for it.

Sam I am.
Sam I am.

This kid may wind up taking fries out of grease as his profession, but you know what?  That profession is a hell of a lot better than selling crack, committing violent crimes against people in the benefit of a gang, and fucking ghetto bitches who shit out welfare babies every 9 months.  I love how you liberals love to defend this type of behavior.  According to you, these people are "victims of society and racism."  NO, these people are victims of a lifestyle that THEY CHOOSE to live.  Slavery was a LONG time ago.  The American White people (as well as Latino, Asian, and Middle Eastern) tax payers are now the TRUE slaves.  Our tax dollars are being STOLEN from us to pay for the blacks to eat, sleep, live, and enjoy the "ghetto" lifestyle that they so love.  Maybe people are fuck sick of delusional liberals like you who bury their head in the sand.  Just wait until YOU become a victim of their hatred towards white people.  You will QUICKLY become a republican.  Oh, and here is a another reality: Black people are the most racist people on Earth.  I can't count the number of times I have heard black people on the MTC bus call Asians, "Chink Muthafuckas", and Hispanics, "Taco Muthafuckas".  Yes, the black community are just LOVELY!!  Let's bring more in from Chicago and St. Louis....so Minneapolis can become more "diverse".....with crime.....Better yet, why don't you invite them to your house so you can take care of them.....just hide your valuables.......    

gypsyviruses
gypsyviruses

@Michelle Bachmann You are the smartest person here

Michelle Bachmann
Michelle Bachmann

You are a very stupid person.   You said it yourself "It is a symbol of southern heritage, representing freedom, states rights, individual responsibility, and resistance to an out of control federal government."   

What is southern heritage?   Racism and slaveryFreedom?   For the slaves?State's Rights?   The right to own slaves isn't a right idiot asshole.Individual responsibility?   What color is the sky in your world?   The individual responsibility to tell a slave what to do?   Out of control federal government?    Isn't the state government out of control since they wanted to make it so one human could own another human? 

Most losers are ashamed of being losers but not people that fly the confederate flag.  The fact of the confederate flag is it is a deeply offensive symbol to lots of people.  The people that continue to use that symbol are assholes.   It's pretty much the exact same thing as the nazi flag so you keep spreading your loser fantasy.   All the sins you talk about the North doing are true, but people in the North are ashamed of those.   Only loser southern idiots keep flying their offensive loser flag at their statehouses.   St. Francis is a shitty school.   Obviously you have no pride in Minnesota since Minnesotans kicked the shit out of those confederate losers.  Stop disrespecting the heroic Union soliders by defending the cowardly racist slave owning scum of the confederacy.   P.S.  If a stupid redneck from St. Francis is getting it tattoed on his body, its not because of southern pride.  It's because he is a stupid racist redneck. Anyone that has a brain and isn't racist would never get it tattoed on their body.   Do you think all the guys in a prison gang have swastikas cause they really dig World War 2? 

Marty Owings
Marty Owings

chez,

It's apparent your not going to hear the argument or accept the Constitution and it's interpretation by the high court as the final word on the matter. I'm not going to go back and forth with you on case law you cherry pick from a Google search, I leave that to your legal team when you decide to fight the first amendment in court system.

Good luck in your struggle to crush the First Amendment.

Marty

amiller92
amiller92

Because companies are not government entities and the 1st Amendment does not restrict their actions in any way.

^ Racist Much?
^ Racist Much?

Wow. Maybe you need to take some meds or try yoga.

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