With just days until his high school graduation, a Minnesota student was suspended Monday for displaying a Confederate flag on school grounds, and his participation in Friday’s commencement ceremony was questioned.
But after an early-morning protest Tuesday in his support and a meeting between the family and school officials, senior Cody Nelson was back in class and will graduate with his classmates Friday night.
Nelson was sent home Monday morning from Crosby-Ironton High School after he refused to remove the flag from the back window of his car that was parked on school grounds. Principal Jim Christenson had asked him to remove the flag, which was considered in violation of district policy that prohibits the display of “objectionable emblems, badges, symbols, signs, words, objects or pictures communicating a message that is racist, sexist or otherwise derogatory.”
When Nelson refused, he was suspended, and, according to his mother, Dorene Nelson, was told he would not be allowed to get his diploma during commencement.
“I always told my kids to fight for what you believe in, and he got kicked out of school for that,” said Dorene Nelson, who said her son stands with the South and its beliefs. “That is what caused this ruckus. Everybody is offended by something, and it’s gotten way out of control. He stood up for what he believed. I think everybody has that right.”
The Nelsons met with Christenson, Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland and Cody Nelson’s guidance counselor on Tuesday, Dorene Nelson said. Cody Nelson will be allowed to keep his flag, but he must park his car near the football field and away from other students.
The family’s version of events played out partly on social media. Dorene Nelson posted on Facebook a copy of her son’s suspension notice signed by Christenson. “Cody refused to take a Confederate flag off his car,” the notice read. “I have told him the flag is very controversial, still Cody said his mother is backing him.”
The notice said Cody Nelson was not allowed back on campus until 7 a.m. Tuesday.
A Facebook page called for a protest Tuesday morning at the high school and about 75 people showed up, Dorene Nelson said. It was peaceful.
Skjeveland said he could not comment on any discipline meted out to Cody Nelson because of data-privacy concerns. “We believe the situation has been resolved,” Skjeveland said.
Cody Nelson plans to take a welding class at Central Lakes College in Brainerd after graduation and has an interest in flying in the Air Force, his mother said.