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Minnesota student sparks controversy driving to school with Confederate flag

CROSBY - A student at Crosby-Ironton High School was disciplined by the school district after showing up to school Monday morning with a Confederate flag on his vehicle.

The student arrived Monday morning and parked his vehicle in the school parking lot, Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland said, with the Confederate flag displayed on the back of his vehicle. High School Principal Jim Christenson said the flag was on a pole attached to the rear window of the car.

The student was senior Cody Nelson, his mother Dorene Nelson reported. Dorene Nelson posted a photo of Cody's suspension notice on Facebook, which shows Cody isn't allowed back on school premises until 7 a.m. Tuesday after being sent home Monday.

However, Dorene Nelson said Christensen told her Monday Cody isn't allowed back at school for the rest of the week and threatened to withhold his diploma at commencement on Friday.

Cody has always been a quiet kid, Dorene Nelson said, and respects the military and police officers. He's a supporter of the right to hunt and bear arms, she said, "and he felt like that was a piece of him."

"He was just trying to respect those people that fought for everything where we are today," Dorene Nelson said. "He felt like he was outnumbered because he was trying to be supportive of how far we've come in our country."

Cody is a laid-back, respectful kid, Dorene Nelson said, and is planning on going to college after graduation.

"Then he gets this thrown at him, with controversy and racism," Dorene Nelson said. "When half his family is black. He took it pretty hard today."

Cody will be returning to school Tuesday morning, Dorene Nelson said, with the same flag on his car. She'll be following him to school, she said, displaying a flag on her own truck.

Displaying the flag is a violation of school district policy 504, "Student Dress and Appearance," Skjeveland said.

"As with any violation of any of our policies, the school district took appropriate action," Skjeveland said.

The applicable section of the policy reads as such: Objectionable emblems, badges, symbols, signs, words, objects or pictures on clothing or jewelry or other displays communicating a message that is racist, sexist, or otherwise derogatory to a protected minority group, evidences gang membership or affiliation, or approves, advances or provokes any form of religious, racial or sexual harassment and/or violence against other individuals as defined in Policy 413.

The Confederate flag sends a message that may be perceived by a minority group as racist, Skjeveland said, "and at our school district, that's not a message we want to send to our minorities or the majority group."

Policy 413 provides definitions for sexual, racial and religious harassment, as well as definitions for sexual, racial and religious violence. There's an annual policy review cycle for all of the district's policies, Skjeveland said, and policy 504 "has been on the books for years."

Skjeveland has seen past violations of policy 504, he said, but he couldn't recall an incident specifically related to the Confederate flag.

Skjeveland didn't disclose what action the district took, citing Minnesota's Data Practices Act, which outlines the privacy of data relating to public school students. The Procedures portion of policy 504 outlines the action the district may take if the policy is violated.

"When, in the judgment of the administration, a student's appearance, grooming, or mode of dress, or materials displayed, is inappropriate, interferes with or disrupts the educational process or school activities, or poses a threat to the health or safety of the student or others, the student will be directed to make modifications or will be sent home for the day. Parents/guardians will be notified," the policy reads.

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