This op-ed originally appeared in Deseret News on August 29, 2023.
Jaiden is a 12-year-old student at a charter school in Colorado Springs who yesterday was kicked out of class for disruptive activities.
He didn’t punch anyone, shout, curse, make noise or act in any unruly way. Quite the contrary — Jaiden is a well-mannered boy who dresses and acts in an upstanding way. It just so happens that Jaiden is also very patriotic.
He portrays his patriotism with clothing (sometimes wearing a tri-corner hat) and also on his backpack — featuring a “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag.
But the director at Vanguard School, where Jaiden attends, appears to believe that this historical flag has “origins with slavery” and is “disruptive to the classroom environment.” He told Jaiden’s mother the boy could not return to class unless the patch was removed.
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
This is clear viewpoint discrimination. Indeed, the school district policy that the director cited only relates to things featuring “drugs, tobacco, alcohol or weapons” — none of which apply to the Gadsden flag.
This unfortunate example is part of a much broader trend of schools using arbitrary policies to either enforce biased agendas or censor students. Earlier this year, two Michigan students were banned from wearing “Let’s Go Brandon” clothing that was critical of President Joe Biden. Another student was suspended for wearing a “Women for Trump” mask. Another was told to take off their “There are only two genders” T-shirt.
Decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Tinker v. Des Moines that political disagreement on school campuses is not only “an inevitable part of the process of attending school; it is also an important part of the educational process.” And yet, schools like Vanguard empower activist administrators to enforce arbitrary interpretations of irrelevant policies to kick kids like Jaiden out of class.
A Proud Symbol of the American Revolution
I had the fortune of breaking Jaiden’s story; he’s an avid reader of my Tuttle Twins books, which teach kids what their rights are and why they should stand up for them — just like Jaiden is doing now. So he and his mother reached out to ask for help highlighting what the school had done to him.
The story got so much traction that the Colorado governor responded: “Obviously the Gadsden flag is a proud symbol of the American revolution and a iconic warning to Britain or any government not to violate the liberties of Americans,” he wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “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. It’s a great teaching moment for a history lesson!”
Doing Nothing Does Harm
It’s a lesson indeed — a lesson that government school administrators create environments hostile to learning and expression, citing “slavery” and racism to attack things that they dislike. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. It’s also a lesson that sometimes you need to stand up against authority, even if your government might wrongfully allude to you being a domestic terrorist for doing so.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of viewpoint discrimination and school policies that infringe on students’ rights is for good students to do nothing. Kudos to Jaiden for taking a stand for his rights.