A young student in Colorado recently found himself at the center of a social media storm because of his patch featuring the Gadsden flag, which shows a coiled rattlesnake and the words “Don’t tread on me” on a yellow background.
Patch Origins With the Slave Trade?
The 12-year-old, who attends The Vanguard School, was asked to take off the patch before returning to class. The teacher’s reason for making the boy take off the patch was the flag’s “origins with slavery and the slave trade.”
The incident gained widespread attention after a video of a meeting between the student’s mother and a school administrator was posted online. The video quickly went viral, sparking a nationwide debate about the flag’s history and significance.
The Mother Fights Back
The student’s mother argued that the flag’s origins are actually the Revolutionary War, not slavery and “has nothing to do with the slave trade.”
Governor Polis Responds
Even Colorado Governor Jared Polis weighed in, defending the student’s right to display the Gadsden flag when responding to the video, “The Gadsden flag is a proud symbol of the American revolution and an iconic warning to Britain or any government not to violate the liberties of Americans.”
Historically, the Gadsden flag was first used during the American Revolution as a personal ensign by the US’s first naval commander-in-chief. It has a long-standing connection to American history and is meant to represent the fight for freedom.
Over time, the flag has been associated with various movements, at one point even representing the conservative Tea Party. Despite this controversy however, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in 2016 that the Gadsden flag itself is not inherently racist.
However, the flag can sometimes be interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in specific contexts due to associations unrelated to its original use and meaning.
School’s Emergency Meeting
In response to public outcry, the school’s board of directors held an emergency meeting and changed their stance on the matter. They allowed the student to keep the Gadsden flag patch on his backpack and acknowledged its historical significance.
The School’s Response
The school’s response was, ““From Vanguard’s founding we have proudly supported our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the ordered liberty that all Americans have enjoyed for almost 250 years,” the board wrote in an email to Vanguard families. “The Vanguard School recognizes the historical significance of the Gadsden flag and its place in history. This incident is an occasion for us to reaffirm our deep commitment to a classical education in support of these American principles.”
A Hidden Truth
While the Gadsden flag was a focal point of the controversy, the school district mentioned that this was just one part of a larger story that seems to be missed by many of the different voices weighing in.
The student had other patches depicting semi-automatic weapons, which did violate the school’s dress code policy, but strangely, these were not addressed until the Gadsden flag situation.
Social Media Responds
On social media, many users had different reactions to the story, with some supporting the school and others questioning the school and teacher’s historical knowledge.
The Principal Is What?
One X user commented, “This a SCHOOL? I guess the teachers and principals need some history lessons. Do you recall a thing called the Revolutionary War, the War for Independence? You know the one that made us a COUNTRY! That is where the Gadsden Flag started! The principal at this school is this stupid!”
Looking at the Parents
However, another responded, “I heard a 14-year-old kid out at dinner a couple of months ago talking about how Ron DeSantis blew him way and that if he could vote, he’d vote for him. These kids don’t know shit other than what their parents feed them.”
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Susan Natoli. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.