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Local

Prophetstown student fights for right to wear Confederate flag shirt to school

Sophomore has received multiple in-school suspensions, plans to address board Monday

PROPHETSTOWN – A 15-year-old Prophetstown High School sophomore plans to attend Monday’s school board meeting after he said he was given multiple in-school suspensions for wearing clothes bearing the Confederate flag.

Chris Kulla said the in-school suspension he served Friday was at least his 10th this school year, his first at the high school. He said he also has served a half-day out-of-school suspension for being insubordinate.

He said he’ll be joined by at least 10 more students, including his four brothers, and many of their parents at Monday’s meeting. They all plan to wear clothes bearing the Confederate flag, he said.

He said his oldest brother, Lucas, 18, a senior, has worn the apparel to the school, as well, but has never been suspended. His other brothers are in second, eighth and 11th grade.

Kulla first contacted Sauk Valley Media by email Friday.

Principal Josh Johnson declined to comment Friday, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, although Kulla said he encouraged administrators to talk about the issue.

The district’s superintendent, David Rogers, also declined comment.

The district’s dress code states:

Students shall not wear clothing or practice grooming which is unsafe, unsanitary, distracting or offensive to others, or destructive to property. … Items may be confiscated and may not be returned. … Students should demonstrate good judgment in what they wear. Language or emblems on clothing that promote or advertise intoxicants, alcohol, tobacco, chew, sexually transmitted diseases, violence, racism, hatred, discrimination, satanic practices, corpses, gang affiliation, or contain profanity or sexual innuendo are not permissible.

Kulla and three of his brothers were born in the South. He was born in Florida, and about 2 years later, the family moved to Alabama, where they lived for about 3 years before moving to Illinois when he was 6. He said a distant relative fought in the Confederate Army, and he said a big part of his Southern pride stems from his close relationship with his grandfather, Bobby Hulsey.

“We’re a very Southern family,” Kulla said, adding that the Confederate flag’s ban at government buildings “pisses me off. Just because some people think it’s racist doesn’t make it racist. That’s one person’s opinion. And it’s all how you look at it.”

“We just believe in a country way of life,” his mother, Melanie, said. “He and his brothers like trucks and mud. For him, the Confederate flag is not about race, or things other people make it about.”

The Kullas moved to Tampico in May, when she bought a house and began work as a nurse at Sterling Pavillion.

Chris Kulla said he’s had issues with Johnson “since Day 1,” when he claims the principal noticed the Confederate flag on his belt buckle and told him to remove it, saying the symbol was racist and discriminatory. Kulla also said Johnson told him to untuck his shirt.

But Kulla admits fault in receiving the out-of-school suspension from Johnson later in the year.

“I could see how that would be on me, because I was kind of yelling at him,” he said. “We’re a stubborn family. We don’t really listen too well.”

But he said on some occasions, he’s also agreed to cover up his clothing, but still received a suspension.

“My problem with what’s going on at the school, is that the dress code isn’t applied consistently across the student body,” Melanie Kulla said. “And my concern is that Chris is losing out on class time and instruction time.”

Chris Kulla said he’s gotten no flak from other students for his choice of apparel, and that, about a month ago, he got more than 100 students to sign a petition to allow apparel bearing the flag to be worn in the school. He said the next day, the petition had vanished from his locker.

Kulla’s end game is two-fold, he said.

“I want to see Mr. Johnson realize I’m not being disrespectful or racist,” he said. “I’m trying to do it without getting in trouble. My end result is I want to be able to wear the Confederate flag every day.”

To attend

The Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico school board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the district office, 79 Grove St., Prophetstown.

For more information, visit plt3.org or call 815-537-5101.

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