FRUITA, Colo. – Officials at Fruita Monument High School last week decreed that students can no longer fly flags from their vehicles. They even banned Old Glory.
“They said we can’t fly a Mexican flag, Confederate flag, American flag, any flag at all,” senior Paxton Streeter complained to NBC 11. “I feel very disrespected that we cannot fly our country’s flag in our own country.”
The news site reports the controversy started when senior Colt Chatfield came to school with a Confederate flag on his vehicle Monday, and it snowballed from there.
“I’ve flown it since I started at this school, and never had a problem” until last week, Chatfield said.
Chatfield initially complied with the demand to remove the flag, but came to school the next day flying the Confederate flag and an American flag, and he said he was threatened with his graduation rites if he did not take them down.
“I don’t see how you can pull someone’s right to walk in graduation because they were being patriotic,” Fruita senior Keegan Bogart said. “My buddy was kicked out for having [a flag] in his truck, and they threatened to expel Colt Chatfield for it, and they told all seniors that they would not walk [in graduation] if we continued to display flags in the school’s parking lot.”
School officials denied threatening students with disciplinary action for flying the flags. Principal Todd McClaskey told NBC 11 officials initially banned all flags in the school parking lot because some were “offensive” to some students, and because they were a “safety” issue.
“It wasn’t a matter of it being an American flag, or a Rebel flag, or a Confederate flag, it was the fact that administration was spending time in the parking lot policing flags, rather than being in the building focused on helping students focus on learning and graduation, which is why we said no flags in the parking lot,” McClaskey said.
Students strongly objected to the flag ban, especially the ban on the American flag, and school officials later relented and removed the new rule.
“Whoever has a problem with our country’s flag really shouldn’t be here, and really shouldn’t say anything about it, because if they don’t like our country why are they here?” Streeter said.
McClaskey said the school rule was changed to allow students to fly flags “respectfully.”
“(The students) were very passionate about it, and rightfully so, so we decided to allow them to display those flags,” he said.
On Friday, about 70 students came to school with their flags flying high, and at least one local veteran came out to show his support.
“We’re all proud of this flag. Thousands of people have died for this flag,” the unidentified veteran said. “I think we should be behind the kids.”
As officials backpedaled to save face, District 51 director of high schools Matthew Diers told NBC 11 “I hope this turns into a tradition.
“Any juniors out there?” he asked students passing by outside of the school, prompting a hoot from one. “This happens next year. Senior day, beach day, bring your flags.”