Posted on July 22, 2004

Flag Apology Gets Students Diplomas

Bob Wheaton, Flint Journal (MI),, Jul. 20

GRAND BLANC — Two of three Grand Blanc High School seniors who were disciplined for their part in a dispute over the Confederate flag have received their diplomas after submitting written apologies.

The third student’s possible loss of his diploma is pending while his mother decides how to proceed with an appeal of an expulsion recommendation from high school administrators, said School Superintendent Gary Lipe.

“The other two have gone through the appeals process, and after we finished the investigation, we wound up with letters of explanation and apology that we felt satisfied our need that a lesson had been learned from their behavior,” Lipe said. “We were also convinced … that they did not have an intent to intimidate.”

A race-related altercation occurred at the high school May 26 when two students displayed flags bearing the Confederate battle banner in the school parking lot.

The flags angered black students, who saw them as a symbol of racism. A shoving match ensued between a black and a white student.

The flag flap raised issues related to racism, free speech and differing interpretations of the meaning of the Confederate flag.

The white students who brought the flags said they represented rebellion and Southern pride, while some black students said the flags represented slavery and discrimination.

The students who successfully appealed their expulsions — which would have meant the loss of their diplomas — were Adam Boniecki, who brought a Confederate flag to school, and John Moore, who was involved in the pushing match and subsequent unspecified behavior that caused high school Principal Michael Newton to recommend his expulsion.

Neither student could be reached for comment Monday.

The student who is still facing expulsion and the loss of his diploma is Matt Balyeat, who brought a Mississippi state flag to school. The Mississippi flag has the Confederate logo on it.

Balyeat wouldn’t say much on Monday about his appeal or whether he’ll apologize.

“I don’t know anything right now,” he said.

Eddrea McKnight, one of the black students who was offended by the flags, also couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. McKnight previously said she wasn’t sure whether the students who brought the flags to school should be expelled.

Lipe said any students who have questions about the decision not to expel the students can read their letters of apology.