MAPLETON, Minn. — A student who flew a Confederate flag on his pickup truck in front of protesters was suspended for violating school policy in small-town Minnesota.
A lunchroom employee was put on administrative leave while school officials investigate an allegation that the employee made vague threats to a woman who brought a Black Lives Matter sign to a homecoming football game.
April Valliant said her son, a high school junior, was suspended from Maple River Secondary School for five days because he flew a Confederate flag from the bed of his truck as he drove past the school Monday. He flew a Blue Lives Matter flag alongside the other.
Several students and community members were gathered outside the school to express their dismay that a man ripped a Black Lives Matter sign from a woman’s hands and threw it over a railing during Friday a homecoming football game.
Laura Nusser, the woman who held the sign, said she brought it to the game because of an allegation her son had made earlier that day. Her son, who is part Black and plays on the football team, told her a student chanted during a Friday homecoming activity “Blacks to the back” of a line that had formed to watch a volleyball game.
She said school officials pulled video of the activity and a white student was seen to have raised his hand and chanted the refrain after a Black student first said it. It is unclear whether either of the two students was suspended or otherwise disciplined.
Though Maple River Schools Supt. Dan Anderson did not answer a phone call and would not clarify how many students were suspended for which actions, he said in an emailed statement that after an investigation of both incidents, “any students violating district policy have been suspended.”
But Nusser talked directly with one school official who said multiple students were suspended.
Nusser's sons said they were interviewed by school officials who found a video of the incident at the Friday homecoming activity, which allowed them to identify who raised his fist and said the chant.
“All students are welcome at Maple River,” the superintendent stated. “Behavior to the contrary has never been, nor will it ever be, tolerated. We will continue to work with law enforcement to ensure the safety and well-being of every student at Maple River.”
Valliant said her son typically has the flag on his truck and did not fly it in response to protests happening near the school. He was returning from an appointment just before 2 p.m., she said, when he saw a TV crew alongside protesters outside of the school.
She said he turned around and drove down Silver Street so his flag might be on camera and then flipped off a protester, allegedly in response to the gesture first being made at him.
Valliant thinks her son was wrongly suspended. She believes he has freedom to express himself by flying the flag, adding that “the Confederate flag is not about racism, if anyone actually does their history.”
Nusser stood by as Valliant’s son drove his truck past the school. She said several protesters held signs and approached one of multiple trucks that were driving by, attempting to confront and speak with the drivers.
She said Mapleton Police Department Chief Ben Honsey “expressed how he was displeased how they were flying the blue line flag with the Confederate flag, that those two shouldn’t be flown together, but that there’s nothing that he could do about it.”
Honsey did not respond directly to the incident but stated in an email Mapleton police will “continue to work on pending investigations and work toward de-escalating tensions within our community.”
After the football game Friday night, Nusser said, a woman named Kristy Jacobsen messaged her on Facebook saying she was upset by Nusser’s “episode” at the game.
Jacobsen, whom The Free Press identified as a lunch service worker at Maple River, told Nusser that all lives matter and asked to visit her home to speak “face to face.”
“So we can talk about how you brought racism to our homecoming football game,” Jacobsen said in screenshots Nusser provided. When Nusser declined to meet, the other woman responded, “I’m willing to come meet you face to face right now but seems like you’re ducking out.”
Supt. Anderson said Jacobsen is on administrative leave pending an investigation into Nusser’s allegations.