Christopher Hartless, a senior at Staunton River High School in Virginia, found himself in the midst of a First Amendment dispute when school officials asked him to remove American flags from his truck. He believes he was merely exercising his right to freedom of expression.
Minutes after Hartless entered class on Aug. 16, he was informed by the school authorities that the flags on his truck were considered distracting. Hartless resisted the request, referencing his family’s history of service, and told WSET, “My family fought for America, and I believe I should have the right to honor the flag they defended.”
The school responded to the escalating situation on Aug. 20 with a “Flag clarification” segment in their “Parent Weekly Update” letter. It stated that while certain imagery deemed offensive or potentially divisive is prohibited by the Student Code of Conduct, American flag logos or prints on clothing are not among them. The flag-related restriction primarily pertains to “large flags or banners” on vehicles, which, as per the long-standing student parking contract, are considered distractions.
Hartless argued with WFXR that if a large American flag can fly at the school’s entrance without causing a distraction, his truck display should be treated similarly. Despite his stance, repeated non-compliance led to the revocation of his parking pass.
Hartless’ father, Allen Kingerly, voiced concerns about the potential erosion of rights and firmly supported his son’s decision. The school, in their correspondence, emphasized their respect and pride in displaying the American flag.
Following the incident, Hartless’ parents have opted to home-school their son. A forthcoming school board meeting on Sept. 14 will see the Hartless family in attendance, and they are rallying community support for their cause, as reported by WFXR.