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UPDATE: Concerns raised over Gadsden flag image in assistant principal’s office

UPDATE on Jan. 16: School District 166 has issued a statement regarding this report. Principal and Acting Superintendent Megan Myers wrote:
Our School District is aware of a number of complaints regarding the school morning announcements on January 14, 2021. Our School District understands that this announcement caused a great deal of concern and discomfort in our community.

We take the concerns of our students, parents and staff very seriously as it is always our intent to have a welcoming environment to all.

Our School District is currently having an independent investigation conducted into this matter. Due to the pending investigation and data privacy issues involved, the school district cannot comment further on the investigation at this time.

From Jan. 15:

Since School District 166 went to distance learning at the beginning of April 2020, Assistant Principal Mitch Dorr has been recording daily video announcements that are shared on the school website and youTube. Most of those announcements are filmed in Dorr’s office at the school, with a large Cook County High School Viking poster in the background. However, on Thursday, January 14, Assistant Principal 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.

A number of parents who viewed the January 14 announcement expressed concern about what they deem to be a political statement in the assistant principal’s office.

The Gadsden flag has a long history of flying in the United States, starting during the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. It was designed by Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina. The “Don’t Tread on Me” motto with a coiled rattlesnake was a statement directed at British rule. It was adopted as the banner for military forces and the South Carolina provincial congress in 1776. It is still frequently seen in Charleston, South Carolina, where Gadsden first presented the flag.

In 2009, the Gadsden flag became a widely used protest symbol of the American Tea Party. In more recent years, the flag has been adopted by far-right groups and individuals. Most recently the flag was brandished during the January 6, 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, along with Confederate flags, America First (AF) flags, and modified U.S. flags.

It is that recent history that had some community members concerned about seeing the Gadsden flag in some format on a bulletin board in the assistant principal’s office. It is not entirely clear in what context the flag image was posted.

In his apology, Assistant Principal Dorr said the Gadsden image was a part of a comic. He pointed out that he had been a history teacher and shared the original history of the flag, as a call to action during the American Revolutionary War.

Dorr said he didn’t realize that some of the present-day negative connotations would come from someone seeing the image. He said he believes in celebrating everyone at Cook County Schools. He said he believes in including “all of us in all discussions.”

He said he was stunned by the reaction and said it has been taken down. Dorr said he sincerely apologized to anyone who was offended by the image of the Gadsden flag in his office. He said that was definitely not his intent.

WTIP reached out to Assistant Principal Dorr for a statement on the image and his apology. Dorr responded to WTIP’s inquiry on Jan. 16 to state that he had been directed not to discuss it further. Dorr did, however, say that the image had been pinned to the bulletin board in his office for over seven months and it had nothing to do with events at the U.S. Capitol.
Earlier, Principal Megan Myers referred WTIP to the January 15 announcement, saying Dorr “addressed” the matter there.

Assistant Principal Dorr’s statement to students and families on the Gadsden flag can be heard here.
This story was updated Jan. 16 to include a response from Assistant Principal Dorr and later Principal/Superintendent Myers.

This is ongoing story. WTIP will provide more details as they become available.