Rumors swept through Bemidji, Minn., Thursday that the high school had banned the American flag, after a staff member told sophomore Mason Valerius that his sweatshirt, on which the stars and stripes were depicted with bullets (stripes) and grenades (stars) violated the school’s dress code, says the Bemidji Pioneer.
The dress code prohibits clothing items that “are likely to cause a material or substantial disruption to the school environment” or that “could be considered offensive.”
The sophomore said he wore the sweatshirt in support of the Second Amendment. He wore it to school again on Friday, the Pioneer said.
The online community went to DEFCON 1.
Valerius posted on Facebook that he was “getting in trouble at school” for wearing the sweatshirt, and that “they are debating on suspending me for this.” He clarified to the Pioneer that no school district employee had told him that they were considering a suspension—Valerius’ worry came from another student who said Valerius could be suspended for it.
A group of about 20-25 parents, students, and staff, led by Hickerson, Kindred’s grandmother, stood outside the high school as classes dismissed for the weekend. Hickerson and a few other adult demonstrators held a large American flag, and other students proudly showed off other depictions they had worn to class that day: a red, white, and blue football jersey, a “Freedom Isn’t Free” T-shirt with a depiction of the raising of the American flag after the battle of Iwo Jima, and a hybrid American/Confederate/Gadsden (Don’t Tread on Me) flag, among others.
One student at the demonstration said he had been reprimanded for wearing a jacket with the flag on the back, but couldn’t name the staff member who did so. Another said a hall monitor asked him to check with other administrators about his “Freedom isn’t Free” shirt, but never did, and a third said a counselor verbally warned him about the U.S./Confederacy/Gadsden flag.
The principal at the school met with demonstrators, including students who had left the school about the time classes would get out anyway. He told them there was no plan to ban the American flag.