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Colorado gov. calls student's Gadsden patch a 'teaching moment' as school reverses ruling

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression said on social media it was "looking into" the situation.

Published: August 30, 2023 11:00pm

A Colorado Springs charter school reversed course on allowing a student to have the Gadsden flag patch on his backpack following a viral video and input from the governor.

A video recording made by a parent went viral this week on X, formerly known as Twitter, showing a 12-year-old student named Jaiden with a school administrator of The Vanguard School, a charter school founded in 1995. Jaiden displayed several patches on his backpack, among them a yellow Gadsden flag patch.

“The reason we do not want the flag displayed is due to its origins with slavery and slave trade,” said a woman identified by the Denver Gazette as Beth Danjuma, an assistant principal.

A wave of response on social media led Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to speak out that the flag should be taught as a Revolutionary War symbol.

“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,” Polis posted on his personal X account. “It appears on popular American medallions and challenge coins through today and Ben Franklin also adopted it to symbolize the union of the 13 colonies. It’s a great teaching moment for a history lesson!”

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression said on social media it was "looking into" the situation.

“There is nothing inherently disruptive about a student displaying a Gadsden flag patch on his backpack,” Aaron Terr, the director of public advocacy for the foundation, said in an email to The Center Square. “Public school administrators can’t ban the expression of an idea, symbol, or viewpoint just because they personally dislike it.”

The Gazette also reported that the school said other patches on the student’s backpack were problematic.

“Unfortunately, this story is incomplete,” the school told the Gazette. “The patch in question was part of half a dozen other patches of semi-automatic weapons. The student has removed the semi-automatic patches. As a school district, we will continue to ensure all students and employees can learn and work in a safe and nurturing environment."

The Vanguard School Board of Directors held an emergency meeting on Tuesday, according to a note sent to parents that the district provided to The Center Square.

"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 note said. "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."

"At this time, the Vanguard School Board and the District have informed the student’s family that he may attend school with the Gadsden flag patch visible on his backpack," the message added.

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