DULUTH – The Cook County school district is investigating complaints about an altered version of the Revolutionary War-era Gadsden flag that appeared in the background of the assistant principal's morning announcement video.

A printout of the famous yellow flag, whose origins date to the American Revolution, featured a masked rattlesnake with the words: "Don't let a mask become a muzzle."

It appeared on a bulletin board behind Cook County Assistant Principal Mitch Dorr in his Jan. 14 morning announcement video, which was filmed in his office.

Parents of students in the small northeastern community said they complained to the school board and the acting superintendent because of the image's anti-mask message and the flag's modern political connotations.

The Gadsden flag, which normally bears the words "Don't Tread on Me," has in recent years become a favorite of the Tea Party movement and militia groups. It was recently flown by the mob that rioted in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, though in the past the banner has also been used by the military and sports teams, according to an Iowa State University graphic design professor.

Megan Myers, the acting superintendent and K-12 principal of Cook County schools, said Tuesday that an investigation is being conducted. She said Dorr is still working for the district.

"Our School District understands that this announcement caused a great deal of concern and discomfort in the community," Myers said in a letter to the district. "We take the concerns of our students, parents and staff very seriously as it is always our intent to have a welcoming environment to all."

Dorr declined to comment on the matter Tuesday but previously addressed the issue in a Jan. 15 video, in which he said the image had been taken down.

"I didn't realize some of the more present-day context would come out in that, so I totally apologize to anybody who took that wrong," said Dorr, a former history teacher. "I know that it's got more negative connotations in today's era and in today's world, and that was certainly not my intention."

Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478