The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has said it will open an investigation after a student in Arizona wore a Confederate flag to a school-sponsored "Redneck Day."

Civil rights leaders contacted the ED after a photo emerged of a student wearing a large Confederate Army battle flag as a cape during May spirit week at Queen Creek High School.

"I found it to be offensive," Civil Rights Activist Rev. Jarrett Maupin told KTVK. "I think many in the community did and the department responded."

In its letter to Maupin, the ED wrote that it would "determine the remedy, including moderating conversations between school administrators and civil rights community leaders to shape new policy and racism prevention measures."

But the department said that that investigation would not include the Confederate flag display, and that the scope would "be limited to whether a racially hostile environment was created due to language and actions that were not protected by the First Amendment."

While Maupin called the investigation a "moral victory," he was disappointed in the decision to ignore the flag.

"While I'm glad they are investigating, the letter itself is a permission slip for racist parents to send their children to school wearing any symbol they want?" he asked, according to the Phoenix New-Times. "To me, there is no difference between a confederate flag and a swastika flag. Is the Department of Education saying it's okay for a young neo-nazi to wear a swastika flag?"

"It's clear to me that the mere presence of the confederate flag and the swastika flag creates an atmosphere of racial hostility."

Watch this video from KTVK, broadcast July 24, 2013.

(h/t: Talking Points Memo)