A New York-based law firm representing 12 students and a professor at North Carolina's flagship public university is pressing the school to remove a Confederate soldier statue.
An attorney wrote Wednesday to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill officials contending the 1913 statue nicknamed "Silent Sam" violates federal anti-discrimination laws.
The warning comes from Hampton Dellinger, a Durham attorney with the firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner on behalf of the students, the professor and the Black Law Students Association.
"The statue violates federal anti-discrimination laws by fostering a racially hostile learning environment," Dellinger said in the letter. "Among the applicable laws are Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which forbid racial discrimination at UNC as an institution of higher learning and a recipient of federal funds. Because Silent Sam violates the rights guaranteed by these and other federal laws, we request that you authorize its immediate removal in order to avoid needless litigation."
The school's top attorney and campus spokesmen did not respond to questions seeking comment. Chancellor Carol Folt has said the school lacks the legal authority to act because of a 2015 state law that prevents removing or altering a public monument.