Confederate flag debate raises safety concerns at Harrisburg Hig - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Confederate flag debate raises safety concerns at Harrisburg High School

Harrisburg Police Chief Whipper Johnson at Harrisburg High School on Monday (Source: Loreto Cruz KFVS) Harrisburg Police Chief Whipper Johnson at Harrisburg High School on Monday (Source: Loreto Cruz KFVS)

Several parents in Harrisburg, Illinois chose to take their high school students out of classes on Monday after widespread rumors of armed students and school lockdowns.

“We aren’t taking any of these lightly,” explained Harrisburg Schools Superintendent Michael Gauch. “We investigated each and every rumor, and haven’t found any threat to our student body… I think it’s being blown into something that it shouldn’t be.”

Parent Angel Murrow called the district office after hearing of the rumors. She was told there wasn’t any danger, but she still decided to pick up her children.

“If there’s a 1 percent chance that they’re going to be in danger, then I want them out,” Murrow explained. “A lot of my friends have come to pick up their kids as well.”

Harrisburg Police Chief Whipper Johnson said on Monday that as many as five police officers at a time maintained a presence at the high school that day, and no issues were reported.

 “I want the parents and kids  to know that they are safe here,” Johnson explained. “At this point, the only guns we’ve found are the ones on my officers’ belts.”

Superintendent Gauch said it all started last week, when one student was told by his teacher to turn his confederate flag-bearing shirt inside out, or go home.

“It was not a disciplinary action,” Gauch said. “He chose to leave, and we will mark that as an excused absence… but to prevent future issues we told the student body about the situation, and we will take disciplinary action in the future.”

Administrators say the request on Friday was made after some students and parents raised concerns about racist symbolism those individuals claim is connected with the banner.

“It’s our job to make sure there aren’t any unnecessary distractions to the environment we teach our students in,” Gauch explained. “I’m not taking a side on this, but it has become such a contentious issue that some students feel threatened by it. We felt that was big enough of a disruption to try to eliminate that situation.”

Others in the community heard of the situation and say they took the matter personally.

“When we came in this morning there was a confederate flag being flown at the high school,“ Gauch added. “We don’t know who did it, but it was just a prank. We took it down and hoped to move on.”

“I put this flag on my truck this morning, after hearing about what happened,” explained Harrisburg High School graduate Hunter Peckinpaugh. “There’s so much more behind the flag then just racism and hate… and people just fail to realize that.”

“If you gonna wear it, wear it,” said Rajah Peacock as he was signing out his child from school in the middle of the day. “But don’t wear it in intentions to just piss somebody else off, or to make them mad. Leave my kids out of it.”

Police say the only notable incident on Monday was when a student’s truck-mounted confederate flag burned, causing damage to the truck.

Police say the truck was driven by the student who originally opted to go home instead of concealing the flag on his shirt.

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