The Albany Times Union reported that on May 6, New York district court justices ordered a Tompkins County mother to remove a rock from her driveway painted with a Confederate flag or risk a “change of circumstances” in the custody case of her biracial daughter.
Appellate justices allowed the parents to retain joint custody of the child born in 2014 and attends school in the Dryden Central School District.
However, Justice Stanley Pritzker, who authorized the decision by the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court’s Third Department, stated that if the Confederate flag-decorated rock is not removed by June 1, Family Court will be factoring its presence “into any future best interests analysis” regarding the child.
The mother, who is identified as Christie BB, testified that “she had a rock with a Confederate flag painted on it at her home,” Pritzker said in the ruling.
The child’s mother reportedly has never used racial slurs on her biracial daughter.
“Given that the child is of mixed race, it would seem apparent that the presence of the flag is not in the child’s best interests, as the mother must encourage and teach the child to embrace her mixed-race identity, rather than thrust her into a world that only makes sense through the tortured lens of cognitive dissonance,” the magistrate wrote.
“Further, and viewed pragmatically, the presence of the Confederate flag is a symbol inflaming the already strained relationship between the parties,” Pritzker continued. “As such, while recognizing that the First Amendment protects the mother’s right to display the flag if it is not removed by June 1, 2021, its continued presence shall constitute a change in circumstances, and Family Court shall factor this into any future best interests analysis.”
The child’s current guardian, Ithaca-based attorney Jason Leifer, said that although he doesn’t believe the mother is responsible for the rock’s presence, he supports the court’s reasoning.
“I think it’s appropriate,” Leifer said.
Despite this, Leifer said he thinks the flag-related portion of the ruling could escalate a strained relationship and create tension that’s not in the child’s best interest.