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Student told to remove patches from backpack before returning to class

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KXRM) — A viral video is sparking outrage from parents and the community after a Colorado Springs student was told to remove a Gadsden flag patch from his backpack.

Now the school district is explaining why it said the story was “incomplete,” citing other patches the student removed prior to returning to class at the Vanguard School.

The Gadsden flag is a symbol dating back to the American Revolution, which bears the imagery of a coiled snake and the words “Don’t Tread On Me.” In the video, the original reasoning given by the school for the removal of the patch was the flag’s “origins with slavery.”

Gov. Jared Polis responded to the original video on social media and pointed out the history of the flag: “The Gadsden flag is a proud symbol of the American Revolution and an iconic warning to Britain or any government not to violate the liberties of Americans. It appears on popular American medallions and challenge coins through today and Ben Franklin also adopted it to symbolize the union of the 13 colonies.”

A man holds a flag and listens to a speaker during a rally at South Carolina's Statehouse
A man holds a flag that includes the historical Gadsden flag imagery. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Polis: ‘It’s a great teaching moment’

Polis said the flag’s symbolism should have served as a “teaching moment” in history. As part of his visit to Colorado Springs on Tuesday, Polis expanded on this to FOX21.

“You know, I think it’s great when students express themselves in different ways, as long as they’re not creating a disruptive environment. Certainly, the Gadsden flag is a great iconic American flag,” Polis said. “Other kids have LGBT flags on their backpacks, others have flags of major political parties. … And that’s part of learning from one another, and I think it’s a great teaching moment to really reflect on what that history means and how it can be part of a healthy school environment.”

In a statement released by Harrison School District 2, the district argued that the Gadsden flag was not at issue, and said other patches with visible weapons were the issue:

“There has been National media attention on our charter school, The Vanguard School, related to a student having the Gadsden flag on his backpack. Unfortunately, this story is incomplete. The patch in question was part of half a dozen other patches of semi-automatic weapons. The student has removed the semi-automatic patches. As a school district, we will continue to ensure all students and employees can learn and work in a safe and nurturing environment.”

Harrison School District 2

The district said in a follow-up statement that the student returned to class without incident after removing “the patches of semi-automatic weapons” from his backpack. The district did not specify if the Gadsden flag patch was also required to be removed.

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