The Rebel flag represents the confederacy and is a symbol long considered racist to some but to 17-year-old Matthew Newcomb it represents his southern pride.
“At first I thought it'd be a cool redneck thing to do,” said Newcomb.
He rides around Tahlequah with it attached to a fishing pole in the back of his red pick up truck. When he drives to school in the morning he parks the truck on school property and folds the flag away into his cab. Then after school he puts it back up and rides off the school’s property.
“I think it's a few people getting a bellyache about something they don't like and there is no where in the constitution that says if you don't like something it's not right,” said Newcomb.
In early April, a vice principal told Newcomb to be “street smart” about flying the confederate flag. He started driving around with it the week before Easter Sunday.
Newcomb said he was not scared of the backlash because if everyone would educate themselves about the history of the confederate flag they would know it represent’s the south’s self reliance and not slavery or racism.
However, the school district superintendent, Dr. Shannon Goodsell, said the flag has brought racism and bigotry to the school and it will not be tolerated.
The American Civil Liberties Union has become involved after Newcomb’s mother, Michelle Armstrong, asked them for help. They attended a due process hearing with the school and the Newcombs on April 16th. Newcomb was suspended the following week for four days. The ACLU is still waiting for a response from the school about whether Newcomb will be allowed to fly the flag while on school grounds.
“I feel the school went very backwards against it and the fact that they are calling me ignorant about it and throwing out punishments and stuff that shows how truly ignorant about it,” said Newcomb.
Newcomb admits some people are offended by it but he said if they read about what the flag stands for, they will change their minds.