Area High School AP Students Debate Confederate Monuments with Law Faculty
A group of high school Advanced Placement students from Atlanta Jewish Academy and Cedar Grove High School joined Professor Timothy Lytton, Professor Lauren Sudeall Lucas and Professor Natsu Saito for a discussion on Confederate Monument Removal: Legal and Policy Issues on Oct. 22.
Lytton began by showing the students pictures of Confederate memorials and monuments – most of which were located in the Atlanta area. He had the students write down any thoughts they had while looking at the photos.
Lucas then lead a discussion on the various reactions of the students.
“The statues were like a slap in the face, they represent slavery to him and in a way they glorify it,” said one Cedar Grove student.
Another student from Atlanta Jewish Academy brought up that “the statutes symbolize how the past should relate to the present.”
Professor Lucas then asked the students how they felt about the carvings on Stone Mountain, to which another student from Atlanta Jewish Academy said, “Stone Mountain is associated with celebration, and that is not the right atmosphere to have a Confederate monument placed in, it almost seems like we are celebrating the monument by having laser light shows surrounding it.”
Next students discussed possible solutions for what to do with the statues, including the pros and cons of tearing them down. Students pointed out several reasons why the statutes should be torn down. One mentioned that while the statues represent part of America’s history, there are many important events in American history that don’t have statutes, so why does this deserve a statue?
The students also talked about while it’s not a period of American history to be proud of, it’s still history. Perhaps the statutes shouldn’t be memorialized or on be placed on public property. It was also suggested that the monuments be moved to a museum where people are free to go see them if they choose to see them.
“Since an artist did originally make the statute, it could be considered art which is a part of free speech and destroying an artist’s expression of free speech and could spiral into something very negative,” said a student from Atlanta Jewish Academy.
Professor Lytton discussed the history of Confederate statues and analyzed the applicable Georgia code (O.C.G.A. 50-3-1) involving removal of Confederate statutes.
After discussing the code involving removal of Confederate statues, the students learned it is difficult, if not impossible to remove or modify a monument in any way under the current laws. The difference between a monument and a memorial also was discussed.
They wrapped up by discussing several policy issues and how they related to the themes raised during the beginning of the discussion. The policy issues included:
- What do Confederate monuments symbolize and what do they symbolize to you?
- Do you think there’s a difference between monuments and other memorial such as street names, schools and cemeteries?
- What should be done about Confederate monuments and who should ultimately decide what should be done? Is the this a local, state, or federal issue?
- If a monument is privately owned who should pay for the removal?
After the students discussed these questions, the professors ended the panel with a reminder to the students not to imply that everyone supporting the monuments also supports the causes of the Civil War. For example, family members of fallen soldiers are likely to support memorials for the fallen soldiers and not necessarily support the causes of the Civil War.
“It’s very difficult to know where exactly to draw the line when getting rid of monuments of any type,” Saito said.