ROUND ROCK, Texas – Round Rock Independent School District officials contend student privacy rights prevent them from discussing why several students were suspended over a picture of them holding a Confederate flag.

ridgeviewIronically, parent Andy Birdwell told Fox 7 his 14-year-old son is one of seven students suspended at Round Rock Ridgeview Middle School for two days for posing in a picture of the Confederate flag in the school bathroom – a picture that was discovered by an assistant principal who was searching through a student’s phone.

“I called up there yesterday asking for a copy of the disciplinary action and his statement was to me that the boys were holding up a Confederate flag and that is a sign of slavery,” Birdwell said, adding that his son has received homework assignments with the alleged symbol of slavery in the past.

“It was kind of tough for me to explain why he’s getting assignments from school with a Confederate flag on it, yet he can’t hold one,” Birdwell said.

Corey Ryan, the district communications person, had little to say about the incident, which was allegedly one in a series of incidents at the school involving “hateful language,” KXAN reports.

“Please know that Ridgeview and Round Rock ISD value student voice; however, the top priority for all schools, including Ridgeview, is to provide every student with a safe and secure learning environment,” Ryan said.

He told Fox 7 essentially the same thing, and stressed the need for a “tolerant learning community for all.”

Birdwell said his son did not intend to offend anyone by posing with the Confederate flag with his buddies, but was punished by the district nonetheless.

“When I asked my son, ‘Exactly why would you take a picture? What transpired for you to want to do this and take a picture?’ and he just said, ‘Dad, I really like the colors,’” Bidwell said.

“We immediately told him, ‘In today’s times, you need to be really careful what others think.’ And that the Confederate flag could be considered a negative, due to the south, you know, did fight for slavery,” he said.

Bidwell said he’s appealing his son’s punishment, and may ultimately remove him from district schools, if necessary.

Many folks who commented about the situation online clearly think the students’ punishment does not fit their alleged crime.

“We should change freedom of expression to freedom of oppression,” commenter “What_the” posted to KXAN. “Most people I know associate the Confederate flag with Dukes of Hazzard.”

“The kids committed a crime and the PC-Nazis will punish them for it,” backtoolarew added. “It’s all in the Constitution somewhere.”