The U.S. Department of Education has officially opened an investigation into allegations that an Arizona high school’s campus-wide “Redneck Day” amounted to a federal civil rights violation.
The kerfuffle giving rise to the investigation arose back in May at Queen Creek High School on the outskirts of Phoenix. The student council hatched a plan to energize students for prom week that included a faculty adviser-approved “Redneck Day.” The point was to dress like – and spoof – “Duck Dynasty,” an A&E reality TV show which follows a wealthy, eccentric Louisiana family.
It’s not exactly clear how dressing like a hillbilly was going to motivate anyone for prom. What did happen, though, is that one kid bedecked himself in Confederate flag regalia, which offended some students. (RELATED: ‘Redneck Day,’ ‘White Trash Wednesday’ don’t go over so well at public schools)
In a July 18 missive to Reverend Jarrett Maupin II, the complainant, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights branch office in Denver details the status of the investigation.
“On May 23, 2013, we received your complaint alleging the Queen Creek Unified School District (District) discriminated on the basis of race,” the letter reads. “Specifically, you allege that the District discriminated by creating a racially hostile environment at the ‘redneck day’ event on May 1, 2013, at Queen Creek High School and by failing to take action to correct the racially hostile environment.”
The racial hostility apparently occurred because of one student who was wearing the Confederate flag—apparently like a cape. An assistant principal asked the student to remove the flag cape, which he did.
“It was no ill intent,” Tom Lindsey, superintendent of the Queen Creek Unified School District, told The Arizona Republic at the time.
Lindsey suggested that the Confederate flag-wearing student didn’t understand the problem at first because he had been transplant from an unnamed state where the Confederate flag is allegedly a more ordinary sight.
“We have determined that we have the authority to investigate this allegation,” the DOE letter also states. “We note, however, that the display of the confederate flag concerns rights protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Therefore, the scope of OCR’s investigation will be limited to whether a racially hostile environment was created due to language and actions that were not protected by the First Amendment.”
As the Arizona Daily Independent notes, Maupin had been very displeased about the incident, claiming that he and many others were “outraged over the controversial celebration.”
He was among a group of petitioners asking U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to intercede on behalf of any and all students “negatively impacted by the racially-insensitive theme.”
The Daily Independent also recalls that Maupin, a former (very young) Phoenix mayoral candidate, was sentenced in 2009 to 75 hours of community service and five years of probation for making a false report to a local sheriff and the FBI.
Maupin’s tall tale involved a list of witnesses who had allegedly seen video evidence of then-Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon committing unspecified crimes, reports The Arizona Republic.
The Phoenix New Times has described Maupin as Al Sharpton’s former Phoenix protégé.”