Florida high school peaceniks stand firm against reactionary backlash 6

Working in a fairly liberal independent high school shelters me from the kind of close-mindedness endemic to some large public schools, like Cocoa Beach Jr/Sr High in Florida.

At that school, a group of students are being heckled, threatened and insulted for wearing peace T-shirts every Thursday. It’s a reactionary backlash reminiscent of the ’60s anti-war protests.

CBHS peaceniksSophomore Skylar Stains (front row, right) and a friend decided to wear peace shirts every Thursday to school. Within a short time, they had 30 other students in their ad hoc Peace Shirt Coalition. Then things got ugly.

Group member Lauren Lorraine told Florida Today that students started approaching the group members, yelling obscene things at them.

“People just turned on us like that,” she said. “At least 10 boys stood up and yelled things at me at once, and we couldn’t even walk through the halls without a harsh comment being made.”

Signs they put up on their lockers promoting peace were defaced with swastikas and white-power slogans, covered up with pro-Bush or pro-war signs, or just torn down. One group of students has taken to wearing the Confederate flag shirts to show their support for the troops in Iraq.

From Florida Today:

However, Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High sophomores Lydia Pace and Joseph Marianetti say the Confederate shirts they wear express support for the troops in Iraq, and nothing more. Joseph said the shirts have nothing to do with racism.

Uh, right. Sorry, kids, I don’t see the connection between the Confederate flag and Iraq. Different war, different context. As for the racism thing, all I can say is, these kids must have been raised in a cultural vacuum.

Wait, this is Florida. Never mind, I get it.

The T-shirt wearing was innocent enough, and if their fellow students had reacted more thoughtfully, no one outside of Cocoa Beach would have heard about the coalition. The backlash has made it political — and surprisingly public.

The story has been digged and made it to The Daily Kos. Kids and adults are leaving all kinds of comments, both thoughtful and obscene, on the Florida Today phpBB site. The girls have also created a MySpace page that has also had a lot of activity. From all appearances, they are not caving in to the backlash. In fact, they may be learning more than they ever anticipated about public discourse and political statements.

Those of us of a certain age remember the Vietnam War and the protests against it. Back then, as now, suggesting that peace is better than war was for some non-thinkers an un-American statement. Peace rallies became violent when the pro-war factions clashed with the peaceniks.

The Iraq war is no different. Too many people have swallowed the administration’s justification for invading the country hook, line and sinker, despite mounting evidence that the invasion had nothing to do with fighting terrorism or 9/11 for that matter. As in the ’60s, suggesting that Iraq was a mistake, and that war in general is wrong, is fodder for some knotheads (W included) to equate skepticism with terrorism and pacifism with cowardice or weakmindedness.

Whatever their original motivation, the members of the Peace Shirt Coalition of Cocoa Beach High should be applauded for their willingness to withstand the idiotic behavior of their peers, and the inability of a high school administration to cope with the raw emotions their peace shirts have engendered.

Being a pacifist is harder than not being one. Ask any Quaker.


Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a TimeThree Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of PeaceThe Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of Peace”

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6 thoughts on “Florida high school peaceniks stand firm against reactionary backlash

  1. Reply The Liberal Democratic party of the United States Nov 21,2007 7:22 pm


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  2. Reply Skylar Nov 29,2007 4:56 pm

    PST did not start out as a “fashion statement” as you may have read in the paper, or online. It started as a way to raise awareness, we knew we weren’t going to create peace by just wearing our shirts, but it was better then a rally.

    We also figured we couldn’t get in trouble for expressing an idea that is shared by many on a t-shirt once a week.
    “The Confederate” boys still wear their shirts. They are a little more toned down then the one shown on our PeaceSpace. We also seem to have offended the Support Our Troops kids, they were the ones to wear shirts that read “If peace is the answer, it must be a stupid question.” That is when I passed out yellow ribbons for students to start wearing with their peace shirts, if they choose to do so. Also, there were shirts that pictured a confederate flag and read “If this offends you, you need a history lesson.” Almost everyone was against us because we stood up for something we beleive in. Apparently, wanting peace is not cool. bleh, high school.

    Lastly, after a little more then a month of harassment (before, during and after school) the administration told 4 of the 15-20 or so boys who harassed us that if they talked to us they would get detentions or ISS. Also, when the boy who wore the shirt that had a HUGE Rebel flag on it that said “This is America!” and on the back an American flag and it said “Get use to it!”. He wasn’t told to change, he wasn’t written up for retaliating against the peace people, he was asked to change because his shirt “may offend someone”. That same day, a peace girl got dress coded and written up for having saftey pinned a peace patch to her pants.

    Thank you for your support, I hope this will benefit someone.

    Skylar Stains

  3. Reply wheatdogg Nov 29,2007 5:13 pm

    Thanks for the comments, Skylar. (Cool name, by the way!)

    I will correct the post to take out the fashion statement remark. It didn’t seem appropriate at the time, but I figured (wrongly) that the reporter had it right.

    I wonder how much students learn about the Civil War — oops! War Between the States/War of Northern Aggression. (Sorry, I’m a Yankee. I keep forgetting where I live now.) How wearing a Confederate flag is somehow an answer to wearing a peace symbol dumbfounds me. Two entirely different concepts and contexts …

    Likewise, I don’t understand why people (it’s not just high school students, Skylar) confuse supporting peace and opposing war with not supporting the troops. Two entirely different concepts and contexts … The troops are there because they have to be. CiC Bush sent the military to Iraq, and the troops have to follow orders. My son went with the Ky National Guard as an MP, and came back. I supported his decision to serve (reluctantly) but I can still oppose the reason he was sent to Iraq. He knows that. Most thinking people would get the distinction.

    That’s thinking people. Seems like you have too few of those down there in Cocoa beach.

    By the way, displaying the Confederate flag in a definite no-no in some schools in Kentucky, since it is offensive to African-Americans. I’m surprised the CBHS administration lets students wear those T-shirts.

  4. Reply Skylar Nov 29,2007 5:32 pm

    Check out the demographics of Cocoa Beach and you’ll see why the administration allows them to wear the shirts.

  5. Reply wheatdogg Nov 29,2007 5:40 pm

    Good point. I don’t know much about Cocoa Beach, but I can imagine.

  6. Reply wheatdogg Nov 29,2007 5:42 pm

    96% white. No wonder. Still, you’d think they’d at least suspect.

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