COLD SPRING, Minn. – Officials at Rocori High School planned to ban flags on vehicles in the school parking lot, until students convinced them to reconsider.
Rocori High School administrators told the Star Tribune students who came to school last spring with Confederate flags flying from their vehicles offended some students, so they instituted a ban on all flags starting next week.
“Either all flags can be displayed and flown or none of the flags can be accepted,” officials said in a statement. “While the Rocori School District preference would be to have respectful, appropriate and positive displays, the fact that this was not the outcome in the spring resulted in the action to limit the displays.”
The new policy threatened “any violation of these procedures can and may be given a ticket or towed away at the expense of the owner,” CBS Minnesota reports.
But senior Cole Staneart and his friends objected to the censorship, particularly for the American flag, and about 25 students decided to send administrators a message they couldn’t ignore.
The teens backed their trucks up along the sidewalk into the school bright and early Wednesday morning – dozens of American flags, as well as a POA-MIA banner, flapping off the back ends of the pick-ups.
“We wouldn’t care if they didn’t allow Confederate flags,” senior Chase Klein told CBS Minnesota. “That would be fine with us, so long as we can still fly the American flag.”
“What we see out there today is an incredibly powerful message about the American flag and very, very impressive,” superintendent Scott Staska told WJON. “We have a row of 18 trucks out there with an American flag off the back end. That display is very, very impressive. If we had that display every day without other controversial flags, without other controversial issues, we’d be incredibly supportive of it.”
Staska said the whole issue centered on balancing students’ First Amendment rights with a respectful learning environment.
“In a situation when there’s a difference of opinion, if you’re removing the one side you’re limiting speech on the one side and you’re allowing speech on the other side,” he said. “So, it’s a fairly delicate balance on the issue of free speech. You know, part of it is also protecting everybody’s rights.”
Later Wednesday, school officials announced they came to a compromise on the flag debacle that allows the American flag, but no others. Students will be responsible for policing their classmates in the parking lot, with a watchful eye out for the Confederate flag, which is still explicitly banned.
“The kids have been awesome today,” Rocori principal Mark Jenson told CBS Minnesota. “There is a resolution. They can bring the American flag.”
“If I see students (flying) a Confederate flag, I’ll ask them to take it down,” Staneart told the Star Tribune. “It’s not appropriate.”