Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday responded to reports that a 12-year-old boy named Jaiden had been removed from class over a patch displaying the Gadsden flag, also known as the “Don’t Tread On Me Flag.”
The boy was barred from displaying the flag because school staff believed it to be associated with slavery and racism, according to video and emails published by Connor Boyack, a conservative author.
“The reason we do not want the flag displayed is due to its origins with slavery and the slave trade,” a woman says in a video that is purported to show a meeting between the boy’s family and staff at The Vanguard School, a charter school in Colorado Springs.
As news of the student’s ejection went viral, Gov. Jared Polis stepped in to defend the student and the flag. In a social-media post, Polis framed the Gadsden flag as a patriotic symbol rooted in the U.S. Revolution, not a hateful one.
“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,” he wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Polis, a Democrat, continued: “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!”
The Gadsden flag shows a coiled rattlesnake against a yellow background, with origins in the American Revolution — a symbol of colonial unity against British oppression, according to Britannica. It was flown above the U.S.S. Alfred during the war.
“It has nothing to do with slavery. It’s the Revolutionary War patch,” a woman can be heard arguing in the video. “The Founding Fathers stood up for what they believed in, against unjust laws. This is unjust.”
In a statement to the media, Harrison School District 2 defended the action — arguing that the Gadsden flag was only part of the problem.
“The patch in question was part of half a dozen other patches of semi-automatic weapons,” wrote Mike Claudio, assistant superintendent of student support, in an email. “The student has removed the semi-automatic patches.”
The statement added that the “student returned to class without incident after removing the patches of semi-automatic weapons from the backpack. The Vanguard School and Harrison School District 2 worked in collaboration to resolve this matter.”