The seventh-grader, identified in the media only as Jaiden, carries his school work to The Vanguard School in a backpack that includes artwork and a number of patches, one of them the famous Gadsden Flag.
The flag patch was the point of contention for the school district. In a hurried meeting with Jaiden’s mother, which she videoed and shared on X, formerly Twitter, a school administrator explained the district did not want the patch displayed due its “origins with slavery and the slave trade.”
Despite that description, the famous Revolutionary War symbol will likely produce an “Oh yeah” moment when viewed by many Americans who may not recognize it by name. It contains a yellow background with a coiled rattlesnake on a patch of grass and includes the famous words “Don’t Tread on Me” across the bottom.
The rattlesnake was an popular symbol of American colonists, and historians say the rattlesnake and the motto were first combined in an flag that flew above the naval ship USS Alfred.
The flag, named for Christopher Gadsden, a delegate to the Continental Congress, was also adopted by Marines who were sent to Pennsylvania to capture gunpowder on two British cargo ships. As they marched, the Marines were following drums that had been painted yellow with a rattlesnake symbol and a "Don't Tread on Me" motto.
After Jaiden’s mom pressed her case on the flag’s origins with the school administrator, The Vanguard School Board of Directors emailed a response to concerned parents later Tuesday.
“The Vanguard School recognizes the historical significance of the Gadsden flag and its place in history,” the directors wrote. “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 flag has generated controversy before, It was the subject of a formal complaint in 2013 when a federal employee said he was offended by a co-worker’s cap with the flag because Gadsden had also owned slaves.
Gov. Polis defends 'proud symbol'
When the recorded teacher-student confrontation went viral on social media, Colorado Democrat Gov. Jared Polis apparently took notice. In an online response to Jim Pfaff, a GOP political consultant, Polis staked out a position that defended the 7th grader but did not throw the school itself under the bus.
“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," Polis wrote. "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."
In an appearance on American Family Radio regarding the controversy, Pfaff said Gov. Polis has limited political power in the state.
“In Colorado, there are two major aspects of education. There is a state board of education filled with elected officials, and Jared Polis was one of those by the way, but it’s a home-rule, local control state," Pfaff explained. "And that keeps the state from encroaching on many local governing principles unlike a lot of states in this country."
Polis has the ability to “really use that bully pulpit to say this kind of stuff’s got to stop,” Pfaff told show host Jenna Ellis.
The Vanguard School, located in Colorado Springs, serves grades K-12 and is part of El Paso County’s Harrison School District Two. The district has 13,058 students, 6,487 at the secondary level.
Pfaff called on the school district to apologize to Jaiden and his family. It’s unknown if that has occurred at this time.
Turning 'insurrectionist' upside down
Pfaff said the incident was an all-too-common example of government’s thirst for control of peoples’ lives.
“We have government power saying that if you oppose us in any fashion, and this is happening at every level of government, then you are an insurrectionist," he warned. "Let’s just put it in those terms. They think you’re an insurrectionist if you push back on government authority. It’s just the opposite. This country was founded on the authority of the people to oversee government. That’s really what’s at stake here."
The Gadsden flag, he said, elicited a snap response to a leftist talking point that designates many American symbols of bygone eras as racist.
“That’s why the Gadsden flag bothers them," he said, "as opposed to a rainbow flag which says, ‘You’re an intolerant human being who needs to be put down if you don’t believe in transgenderism.’ Listen, we can all learn to live together under an equal set of laws, but that does not mean your life choices, particularly transgenderism, has to be called out as acceptable. I don’t accept it. As a believer in Christ, I have a real problem with transgenderism.”