Some parents pulled their children out of Harrisburg High School in Illinois on Monday due to rumors of a lockdown and students with guns, all stemming from a Confederate flag incident last week (video below).
A student was told to wear his Confederate flag shirt inside out or leave the campus last Thursday.
“It was not a disciplinary action,” Harrisburg Schools Superintendent Michael Gauch told KFVS. “He chose to leave, and we will mark that as an excused absence … but to prevent future issues we told the student body about the situation, and we will take disciplinary action in the future.”
An unidentified person(s) raised the Confederate flag on the school flag pole on Monday, but school officials took the flag down. There was a police presence on campus, but no lockdown. Police patrolled the perimeter of the school on Tuesday.
The Southern Illinoisan identified the student who originally wore the Confederate flag shirt as Trenton Byrd.
The 18-tear-old student told the newspaper on Tuesday: "We just want to be able to support our flag, our heritage and our freedoms as Americans to fly a flag, wear a flag and support it wherever we want to.”
However, the State of Illinois fought against the Confederate States of America, which created the Confederate flag during the Civil War. There were some dissenters in Illinois, but the state was a major supplier of soldiers for the United States of America.
Byrd claimed that he has worn Confederate flag clothing as far back as the eighth grade without receiving any complaints until now.
“There were several phone calls to the high school office and there were students that came in who were visibly shaken and said they were scared to be in the building,” Gauch told The Southern Illinoisan. “They felt the reason this was being displayed was for ulterior motives.”
Gauch recalled that about 30 more students also wore Confederate flag clothing, mimicking Byrd, but chose to change their clothes rather than be sent home.
“We have no racial intentions," Byrd countered. "We’ve got black friends in the school. They all are OK with it. I talked with [one friend] the first day before I got sent home and asked if this shirt offends him. He was like, ‘No, no problem with it, I know you’re not a racist.'"
The Southern Illinoisan asked Byrd to have those friends contact the newspaper, but none did.
Byrd is planning to speak at a school board meeting on Sept. 22 meeting to justify his display of the Confederate flag at school. A pro-Confederate flag rally is planned for this Saturday, and possibly a parade.