Rhonda Silence

No timeline for School District 166 Gadsden flag investigation

Although School District 166 has given few responses to inquiries regarding public concerns over the appearance of a modified Gadsden flag in daily video announcements, Principal and Acting Superintendent Megan Myers has confirmed that an investigation is underway.

The investigation came about after a public outcry over a flag poster in Assistant Principal Mitch Dorr’s office. See the related story here: Concerns raised over Gadsden flag image in assistant principal’s office

Since School District 166 went to distance learning at the beginning of April 2020, Assistant Principal Dorr has been recording daily video announcements for the school website and youTube. Most of those announcements have been filmed in Dorr’s office at the school, with a large Cook County High School Viking poster in the background. However, on January 14, Dorr sat in a different position, revealing what appeared to be a Gadsden flag on his bulletin board.

The next day, during the daily announcement, Dorr apologized for posting the flag image.

When WTIP contacted Dorr at that time, he said he had been advised not to comment on the matter. However, Dorr stated that the poster had been on the bulletin board for seven months.

There have been anecdotal descriptions of the poster as the Gadsden flag modified to show a masked rattlesnake with the words “Don’t let the mask become a muzzle.”

However, exactly what words are on the flag are not clear in the video and the school district has declined to confirm what the poster said. In an email response to WTIP, Principal Megan Myers said, “The School District cannot provide you with confirmation as to any alleged statement on a poster.”

Regardless of the text on the poster, which Dorr referred to as “a comic” in a January 15 apology during announcements, community members question whether it was appropriate.

Some community members cited concern that the Gadsden flag, with its “Don’t Tread on Me” message had been carried as a banner by some of the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Although Dorr said he thought of the flag in its historical context as a Colonial protest against British rule, many people spoke out on social media to say the flag has become a symbol of violence or racism.

Others, who believed it was an “anti-mask” statement, were concerned from a public health standpoint. Commenters asked if Assistant Principal Dorr was being serious enough about following COVID-19 protocols.

These concerns are unanswered as the investigation continues. In her email, Principal Myers wrote, “Any information as to the nature and extent of the allegations is currently classified as private personnel data pursuant to Minnesota Statues, section 13.43, subdivision 2(a).”

Once the investigation is complete, however, the information should be available. MN Statute 13.43, subdivision 2 (a) goes on to say the following is public information: the final disposition of any disciplinary action together with the specific reasons for the action and data documenting the basis of the action, excluding data that would identify confidential sources who are employees of the public body.

Myers told WTIP that the investigation is being conducted by the law firm Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A., a Minneapolis law firm. The firm’s website lists “school law” as one of its areas of expertise.

Myers said at this time, there is no timeline for the completion of the investigation. She added, “The investigation is moving as expediently as possible.”