WILDER, Idaho – School officials in Idaho claim the Confederate flag is considered a gang symbol and threatened a student with expulsion for driving to school with one waiving from his pick-up.
But the local gang task force told the media it has no idea how school officials equated the Confederate flag to gangs, and forcing someone to remove it could be against their rights.
Canyon-Owyhee School Service Agency Academy officials called student Jordan Beattie to the office this week over a Confederate flag given to him by his girlfriend that he installed on his truck, ABC 6 reports.
School officials told Beattie the Confederate flag is banned on campus because it’s considered a gang symbol, and forced him to remove the flag while at school or face possible expulsion, according to the Idaho Statesman.
“We asked him to take it down during the time when he was on COSSA property,” Agency CEO Harold Nevill told the news site. “We weren’t saying he was a gang member. … The (COSSA) board has said anything that’s gang related, if it’s called out by the Caldwell street-crimes unit, is something they’re not going to allow on school property.”
But Caldwell Police Department Capt. Frank Wyant – who is ultimately responsible for the department’s gang unit – told the media “we don’t look at the Confederate flag as a gang symbol.”
“We don’t encourage anybody to take it down,” he said. “Those are their rights and that’s what we’re here for is to protect and uphold those rights.”
If the flag was emblazoned with a swastika, that would be different, he said.
Beattie’s mother, Sherry, agrees with Wyant that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with gangs.
“Gang related? Absolutely not,” she said. “No I’m 100 percent against gangs.”
Beattie ended up taking down his flag, but the student and his mother plan to bring the issue up again at the next school board meeting.
The situation in Idaho comes at the same time another student at Florida’s North Fort Meyers High School got into it with school officials over two Confederate flags she flew from her truck on the first day of school. Those flags were also accompanied by an American flag.
An assistant principal “came out and told me that I had to leave and I asked him why and he said the American flag was fine, but I couldn’t fly my two Confederate flags,” junior Sky Hunter told WPTV.
Hunter drove her truck home and her father dropped her back off at school. After the news station repeatedly called the school over the issue, the principal called Hunter to apologize for violating her rights, and told her she could bring the flags to school.
The school policy is to require students to remove things that cause a disruption, but there was no indication Hunter’s flags were a problem, a district spokesperson told WPTV.
“I wasn’t expected to be told to leave right on the spot, especially in the rude manner I was asked,” hunter said. “I think everyone should be allowed to fly them, not only because of the history but because we have the freedom to do so.”