Jordan Beattie, a student at COSSA Academy in Wilder, thought a Confederate flag given to him by his girlfriend was simply a gesture of love, and he wanted to show it. But when Beattie drove to school with the flag on his truck, he was called to the school office and told he could not display it on school property and risked expulsion.
COSSA stands for Canyon-Owyhee School Service Agency. The agency serves special-education, alternative-education, professional-technical and gifted and talented students from the Homedale, Marsing, Notus, Parma and Wilder school districts. The Wilder academy’s campus includes the alternative school, most professional-technical programs and some special-ed services.
When Jordan Beattie and his mother, Sherry Beattie, met with school officials to discuss the matter, they were told the flag could be interpreted as a gang symbol. COSSA CEO Harold Nevill confirmed that.
“We asked him to take it down during the time when he was on COSSA property,” Nevill said. “We weren’t saying he was a gang member. ... The (COSSA) board has said anything that’s gang related, if it’s called out by the Caldwell street-crimes unit, is something they’re not going to allow on school property.”
Caldwell police said they didn’t know how the school concluded that police thought the flag was a gang symbol.
“We don’t look at the Confederate flag as a gang symbol,” Capt. Frank Wyant said. “We don’t encourage anybody to take it down. Those are their rights, and that’s what we’re here for, to protect and uphold their rights.”
But Wyant added that if the Confederate flag was modified in some way, such as by adding a swastika, it could indicate possible gang ties.
Idaho On Your Side returned to the school with this information. The school said it believes Caldwell police had used information from a website, www.idahogangs.com, that listed the Confederate flag as an indicator possible gang ties under the “Aryan” tab on its website. That site, created by the Idaho Department of Correction, was no longer operating Wednesday. A department spokesman said he did not know why but would look into it.
Sherry Beattie said her son’s flag is not gang-related. “I’m 100 percent against gangs,” she said.
She said Jordan told her, “I want to be able to hold my flag. And I want other kids to be able to. I don’t want other kids thinking that you can be bullied out of it.”
For now, Jordan Beattie has removed the flag. The family expects to meet with the school board to discuss the matter.
The Idaho Statesman contributed.