Colorado’s governor and a top free-speech advocacy group both appeared Tuesday to side with a 12-year-old Colorado Springs boy who was reportedly kicked out of class for having a Gadsden flag patch on his backpack.
Conservative children’s book author Connor Boyack uploaded Monday to X, formerly known as Twitter, a video showing 12-year-old Jaiden sitting at a table with a school employee, while his mother speaks from behind the camera and a baby bounces his or her foot on a stroller hood just in front of the lens.
Boyack wrote that the boy attends The Vanguard School in Colorado Springs.
Jaiden’s backpack displayed a Gadsden flag, recognizable for its yellow field with an image of a coiled snake and “Don’t Tread On Me", along with a Doge Coin and other patches.
Describing the patch as rooted in slavery, a school staffer explained to Jaiden’s mother that the boy could not return to class with the Gadsden flag patch on his backpack.
Two key figures were among the social media pushback: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).
Polis called the flag’s appearance in class “a great teaching moment for a history lesson” because the flag was “an iconic warning to Britain or any government not to violate the liberties of Americans” during the American Revolution.”
FIRE shared Polis’ response.
“We couldn’t agree more,” wrote the group. “This is a great moment for a history lesson – and a lesson in the 1A (First Amendment).”
FIRE, which directs its demands for free speech rights at both sides of the political aisle from Ron DeSantis to Gavin Newsom, asked Polis to ensure that the school lifts any discipline for the boy’s “protected speech” and clears his record.
Neither The Vanguard School nor its director, Jeff Yocum, responded before publication time Tuesday to Cowboy State Daily emails requesting comment.
In This Video
In the video, the boy’s mother and school staffer quarrel over whether the boy has a right to display the patch.
“The reason we don’t want the flag displayed is due to its origins with slavery and slave trade,” says the school staffer, adding that she’s upset the boy is missing “so much school” and she asked him to take his things out of his backpack and go to class.
“He can’t have that around other kids,” says the staffer in the video.
“It has nothing to do with slavery,” says the mother. “That’s the revolutionary war patch.”
In the video, Jaiden appears mildly amused.
The mother indicates that the school staffer may be confusing the Gadsden flag with the Confederate flag.
“I’m here to enforce the policy provided by the district,” says the woman. “You have every right not to agree with it.”
The mom says action against her son could be justifiable if there’s a general ban on wearing patches, but not if the school is going to enforce a “one-sided” patch ban. “Because you allow some patches but not other patches.”
The mother says she is teaching her son to stand up for his beliefs.
“You’re going over the Revolution for seventh grade (teaching units),” she continues. “The Founding Fathers stood up for what they believe in (against) unjust laws. This is unjust.”
A Little Ironic
In the same thread, Boyack posted an email from Yocum in which the director wrote that he was providing the school’s rationale “for determining the Gadsen (sic) Flag is considered an unacceptable symbol.”
His first link leads to a Washington Post story by free-speech expert and law professor Eugene Volokh, in which Volokh reacted to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report characterizing the Gadsden flag as a form of racist harassment.
Ironically, Volokh voiced concerns that labeling people who wear Gadsden flags as harassers would restrict speech and saddle employers with liability concerns.
Yocum’s second link leads to an Oregon Live story discussing the flag’s creator, South Carolina politician Christopher Gadsden, who was a slave owner and trader during the American Revolution.
The third link routes to The Conversation online newspaper, and its story calling the Gadsden flag racist because it has flown alongside “Trump 2020” flags, the Confederate battle flag, “and other white-supremacist flags.”
And the fourth link is a Military.com story discussing the Navy pivoting to an alternate patch in the wake of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s harassment decision.
The Gadsden flag is no stranger to headlines. Last summer, Cowboy State Daily reported that, in a leaked internal FBI memo, the agency called the Gadsden, Betsy Ross, Liberty Tree and other flags “domestic terrorism symbols.”
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.