Signs of the Times - Kay Peaslee Comments on Her Own Experience with Cross Burning
November 2001
Letters to the Editor: Kay Peaslee Comments on Her Own Experience with Cross Burning
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I just read Downing Smith's reply to L. Snook re cross burning as a form of speech.

Many years ago (1964-65) I taught Virginia Government at Yorktown H.S. in Arlington, VA. It was when LBJ's civil rights proposals were being debated in Congress. Of course, we talked about them in my class, and I supported them.

One night, when we were all asleep (Sandy and three daughters), we were awakened by a noise on our front lawn. Sandy and I went to see what was happening. We saw two of my students were erecting a cross on our front lawn and preparing to light. Sandy, in his pajamas, took off after them and I stood watching from the safety of the porch. Sandy didn't catch the cross burners, but I recognized one of them as a student in one of my classes.

Next day I reported this occurrence to my principal, Ralph Kear. He listened to my story, but was noncommittal. Nothing ever happened as a result of that "expression of free speech"--no publicity, no punishment, nada. As if it had never happened or as if it didn't matter.

The memory of that night has remained with me ever since and will go with me to my grave. It was terrifying for all of us.

Cross burnings are not a form of communication. They are threats to intimidate and to harm. They are assaults. The VA court doesn't understand.


Kay Peaslee (electronic mail, November 12, 2001).

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