This article has been updated to clarify that The Vanguard School is not affiliated with Hillsdale College and to provide further information.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (LifeSiteNews) — A Colorado classical charter school has reversed course after going viral for pulling a 12-year-old student from class for wearing a patriotic “Don’t Tread on Me” patch on his backpack.
In a statement a day after the incident, the school’s board of directors reaffirmed its “deep commitment to classical education” and said the boy would be allowed to return to school with the patch.
Twelve-year-old Jaiden made headlines after he was pulled from class at The Vanguard School, a public charter school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a patch on his backpack bearing an emblem school administrators said was linked to slavery.
A video depicting a confrontation with an unnamed staff member went viral on Twitter/X after it was shared by Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute.
“So, the reason that they do not want the flag – the reason we do not want the flag displayed – is due to its origins with slavery and slave trade,” a school administrator says in the video clip, which was apparently secretly recorded by the boy’s mother on a camera stowed away next to a baby stroller.
Meet 12yo Jaiden who was kicked out of class yesterday in Colorado Springs for having a Gadsden flag patch, which the school claims has “origins with slavery.”
The school’s director said via email that the patch was “disruptive to the classroom environment.”
Receipts in the 🧵 pic.twitter.com/qQ8jK1zSpR
— Connor Boyack 📚 (@cboyack) August 29, 2023
At issue was a patch depicting the iconic revolutionary war “Gadsden flag,” which depicts a coiled rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” against a yellow backdrop.
The flag originated in 1775 and was used as a symbol of American opposition to British rule. The boy’s camouflage backpack also sported several hand-drawn phrases promoting Jaiden’s candidacy for class vice president and other patches, including one depicting St. Michael wielding a sword and the prayer “St. Michael the Archangel Protect Us.”
According to the content of the viral video clip, Jaiden was pulled from his class because of the Gadsden flag and would not be allowed to return with the backpack while it still bore the patch.
“We can’t have [the patch] in and around other kids,” the school staffer said.
In response, Jaiden’s mother informed the administrator that the flag “has nothing to do with slavery” and is instead a “revolutionary war patch that was used when they were fighting the British.” She asked the staffer whether she might instead be mixing up the Gadsden flag with the Confederate flag.
Declining to address the suggestion, the staff member said she was just enforcing district policy and offered to direct Jaiden’s mother to other staffers, including school director of operations Jeff Yocum.
Jaiden’s mother shared frustration with the school administrator about the fact that her son was missing class because of the patch, particularly since he takes his academics seriously, has gotten good grades, and previously made the honor roll.
“We teach him to always stick up for your beliefs,” the boy’s mother said. “I mean, you’re going over the revolution for seventh grade … the founding fathers stood up for what they believed in against unjust laws. This is unjust.”
An email correspondence between the boy’s mother and Yocum, which was obtained by Boyack and shared on social media, show the director of operations citing mainstream and left-leaning sources, including The Conversation, The Washington Post, and Oregon Live, to argue that the revolutionary war symbol is linked to slavery.
The director then argued that the flag is associated with “hate groups,” linking to this weak article that cites a “graphic design scholar” 😂 who claimed that “some may now see the Gadsden flag as a symbol of intolerance and hate—or even racism.”
— Connor Boyack 📚 (@cboyack) August 29, 2023
The Washington Post article linked in Yocum’s email addressed an U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Opportunity Commission (USEEOC) complaint in which the agency acknowledged that the famous insignia “originated in the Revolutionary War in a non-racial context,” but went on to contend that “whatever the historic origins and meaning of the symbol, it also has since been sometimes interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages … ”
Fox News pointed out that the EEOC has officially stated it hasn’t found “that the Gadsden Flag in fact is a racist symbol” but that it is sometimes used in that way “in some contexts.”
A day after the incident went viral, The Vanguard School’s board of directors wrote a letter stating that they had held an emergency meeting and determined that the boy could return to class without removing the patch in accordance with the school’s founding principles.
A self-professed classical institution, The Vanguard School states that its academics are based on Hillsdale College’s liberal arts curriculum. However, Vanguard is not affiliated with the well-known conservative university.
“From Vanguard’s founding we have proudly supported our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the ordered liberty that all Americans have enjoyed for almost 250 years,” the statement read. “The Vanguard School recognizes the historical significance of the Gadsden flag and its place in history. This incident is an occasion for us to reaffirm our deep commitment to a classical education in support of these American principles.”
“At this time, the Vanguard School Board and the District have informed the student’s family that he may attend school with the Gadsden flag patch visible on his backpack,” the statement concluded.
However, the boy was ordered to remove several other patches that depicted “semi-automatic weapons,” according to a Tuesday statement from Harrison School District 2.
Prior to Vanguard’s decision to allow Jaiden to return with the Gadsden flag patch, law firms were reportedly stepping up to help support the boy.