Parents at Harrisburg High School in Illinois took their children out of class on Monday amid rumors of a lockdown stemming from one student’s insistence on wearing a Confederate battle flag shirt on campus, KFVS-TV reported.
“If there’s a 1 percent chance that they’re going to be in danger, then I want them out,” said one parent, Angel Murrow. “A lot of my friends have come to pick up their kids as well.”
Local superintendent Michael Gauch said a Confederate flag was also mounted below the US flag on the school flagpole before classes started on Monday morning by unidentified students. The display came after dozens of students held a rally on Saturday night supporting the banner.
Police Chief Whipper Johnson said five of his officers were dispatched to the school that day, and no weapons and no disturbances were reported on campus.
“At this point, the only guns we’ve found are the ones on my officers’ belts,” he said.
The disputes regarding the flag started when students and an administrator objected to it being displayed on a shirt worn by 18-year-old Trenton Byrd late last week. Byrd chose to go home rather than turn the shirt inside out.
“We have no racial intentions. We’ve got black friends in the school,” Byrd told the Carbondale Southern Illinoisian. “They all are OK with it. I talked with (one friend) the first day before I got sent home and asked if this shirt offends him. He was like, ‘No, no problem with it, I know you’re not a racist.'”
Byrd also said that another rally is planned for Saturday, and that he plans to address the local school board at its Sept. 22 meeting to advocate for displaying the flag on campus. However, none of the black friends Byrd identified to the newspaper have reportedly spoken out on his behalf.
KFVS reported that a Confederate flag mounted on Byrd’s truck was burned. Students who insist on displaying the flag on their vehicles are required to park off-campus. Nearby homeowners have reportedly allowed them to use their property.
“We just want to be able to support our flag, our heritage and our freedoms as Americans to fly a flag, wear a flag and support it wherever we want to,” Byrd said.
Watch KFVS’ report, as aired on Wednesday, below.