When educators are ignorant of history, history is in danger of being rewritten.
Earlier this month, the Gadsen flag — a symbol that represents rebellion against tyranny — was ironically at the center of controversy. Jaiden Rodrigez, a 12-year-old student attending the Vanguard School in Colorado Springs, was kicked out of his seventh-grade classroom by administrators for wearing a Gadsden flag patch on his book bag.
A surreptitiously recorded video released by Connor Boyack shows Jaiden and his mother having a discussion with the school’s vice principal, who declares that the reason the flag cannot be displayed is “due to its origins of slavery and the slave trade.”
This is, of course, entirely false — and a gross rewriting of the Gadsden flag’s history. The iconic yellow flag, depicting a rattlesnake with the phrase “Don’t Tread On Me” below it, was designed by South Carolina soldier and delegate Christopher Gadsden in 1775 during the Revolutionary War. Soon after its creation, the first United States’ Naval commander-in-chief, Commodore Esek Hopkins, hoisted the flag from his ship, the USS Alfred. In February 1776, the flag was submitted to the Provincial Congress of South Carolina by delegate Gadsden as a pro-freedom symbol and a warning to the British not to violate the liberties of Americans.
Being ignorant of the Gadsden flag’s origins is one thing, but for an educator to assert an entirely rewritten its history while simultaneously attempting to erase its display is unacceptable.
The video of the exchange, filmed by Jaiden’s mother, quickly went viral, amassing eight million views in one hour and racking up tens of millions of views across all social media platforms. Online outrage soon exploded — and it was channeled into action. People across the country sent messages to Vanguard School administrators lambasting their poor decision and lack of historical knowledge.
Within hours, the Vanguard School board of directors called an emergency meeting and issued a statement siding with Jaiden asserting the institution’s stated values. “From Vanguard’s founding we have proudly supported our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the ordered liberty that all Americans have enjoyed for almost 250 years. The Vanguard School recognizes the historical significance of the Gadsden flag and its place in history. This incident is an occasion for us to reaffirm our deep commitment to a classical education in support of these American principles. At this time, the Vanguard School Board and the District have informed the student’s family that he may attend school with the Gadsden flag patch visible on his backpack.”
The next day, Jaiden posted a video on social media sharing that kids were “hyped up” by the attention he gained for standing his ground. Some even put Gadsden flag stickers on their lockers as a new trend.
Jaiden’s story is doubly instructive: it illustrates the courage required to combat virtue-signaling bullies with a superiority complex — even under threat of getting canceled, losing a job or friends, or getting kicked out of school. This incident also showed the power that grassroots action has to hold institutions accountable. It wasn’t just Vanguard School students and parents pushing back; it was the people, and the people got results.
If Jaiden and his mother hadn’t taken a stand, the Gadsden flag would have been another piece of culture surrendered to the revisionists. Instead, their resolve provided a valuable lesson: When faced with woke bullies, don’t let them tread on you.