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Confederate flag sparks Black Lives Matter protest at high school

A significant number of black students at Manatee High School held a peaceful protest Thursday morning before school started, a day after a fellow student brought a Confederate flag to campus as part of Spirit Week.

The students wore all black and held the Black Lives Matter protest before school started in one of the school courtyards, Manatee County School District spokesman Mike Barber said Thursday. When the bell rang, the protest ended and students went to class.

As of 10:40 a.m., there were no other reported issue from the high school that Barber had seen, he said.

“That’s where we’re at right now,” Barber said.

Thursday’s gathering was a response to an issue at the school Wednesday where a student brought in a Confederate flag — which also appeared to say “Trump 2016” on it — as part of the school’s Spirit Week homecoming celebration.

After another student complained, the student with the Confederate flag was found and voluntarily gave up the flag for the rest of the school day, according to district officials. Prior to the flag being confiscated, a number of students posed with the Confederate flag at the school and posted photos on social media.

Similarly, by mid-morning, photos of the Black Lives Matter protest were making their way around social media.

With the students peacefully in the building, social media is one aspect the school district is paying particular attention to, Barber said.

“That’s something we can’t control,” he said.

A robo-call went home to Manatee parents Wednesday evening from Don Sauer, the principal, explaining the situation and asking parents and families to help ensure Thursday was a “both peaceful and productive.”

“I know that these kinds of issues can be difficult to deal with and discuss, but I strongly believe the Manatee High School Community can turn these events into a positive. Let’s all join together to support each other and make this a great homecoming week. GO CANES,” Sauer’s message ended.

Message from the principal

Below is the robo-call sent home to Manatee High School parents and families from Don Sauer on Wednesday.

This is Don Sauer Principal at Manatee High calling to make sure you have accurate information about a situation at our school today. As you know, this is homecoming week and today was National Pride Day, Wear a County Flag, Influential Person from another Country and Different Country Outfits Day. Many students wore costumes and carried flags from many different countries. This morning, a student brought forward a complaint to me regarding a confederate flag being on campus. Because of the complaint and the corresponding disruption to our school day, the student who brought the flag to school was approached and voluntarily gave me the flag. During the day, it also came to our attention that a photo of students with that flag in the forefront was circulating on social media. The photo also contained students with flags from countries well in accordance with today’s homecoming activities. In response to social media posts regarding the photo, we have had a small number of phone complaints from parents and others, and we have received indications that some form of protest might be planned for tomorrow. I want to assure you that we are taking all necessary measures to make sure any reaction to today’s events are both peaceful and productive. We ask for all our parents and students to help us ensure that is the case. To provide additional support for our school this afternoon and in the morning, we will have additional school district personnel on campus. I know that these kinds of issues can be difficult to deal with and discuss, but I strongly believe the Manatee High School Community can turn these events into a positive. Let’s all join together to support each other and make this a great homecoming week. GO CANES.

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