McBain teacher destroys Confederate flag tile, school investigates

A duplicate of the tile a McBain Rural Agricultural School teacher destroyed in one of the school\'s classrooms.

MCBAIN — McBain Rural Agricultural School conducted an investigation after a teacher was filmed taking a hammer to a former student’s art tile with a Confederate flag on it.

School superintendent Steve Prissel said the school found out about the video about weeks ago when someone brought it to the attention of high school principal Ryan Biller.

In the video you can see the teacher take down a tile with a Confederate flag on it that the teacher said offended the students in the classroom, Prissel said.

Biller began an investigation to address the incident as the school had not pre-approved the removal of the tile, the superintendent said.

Prissel would not identify the high school teacher involved in the incident or go into details about the investigation due to confidentiality reasons.

He said the investigation is closed and Biller addressed the personnel accordingly.

McBain senior Jackie Coleman said in a Facebook message that she took the video of the teacher.

Coleman said she was in the school’s art room during her study hour to work on her final piece. Some kids were making their senior tile and were viewing the ones already on the wall made by the 2007 seniors.

Students were making comments and ideas as they looked at the tiles and the one with the Confederate flag tile was particularly a conversation starter, she said.

When the teacher heard about the Confederate flag conversation, she said she didn’t agree with the tile being displayed and said she would take it down. She grabbed a hammer, pulled a table up, climbed on top of it, and started destroying the tile, Coleman said.

When Falmouth resident Kasia Vasser saw the video on Facebook, she recognized the tile. It was identical to the one she kept in her house and now has in her truck.

She was a senior at the McBain school in 2007 and made the tiles as part of an art project, she said.

She said all the seniors made the tiles, one for the wall and one to take with them. The teacher told them to put something on the tile that represented themselves.

What represented Vasser was horseshoes, her initials and the Confederate flag, she said.

Those items together represented freedom for her too. She loved horses and loved to ride them.

“When I ride I don’t think about problems, I just enjoy the ride,‘ she said. “Enjoy the freedom of the ride.‘

As for the flag, she said she believes it stands for history, freedom and respect.

She lived in southern states for a while and said that they were the best days for her family financially, academically and health wise.

No one said anything about the flag when she was making it and a lot of people have their own opinions and think of the flag in multiple ways, she said.

In the video’s Facebook comments, Vasser saw negative comments toward the teacher’s actions and negative comments toward her. There were also praises toward the teacher and praises toward Vasser.

“It’s whatever you believe and your opinion,‘ she said.

Prissel said this was a “passionate‘ subject and was handled accordingly.

It was a controversial piece and because there are differing views on it, it brings up different emotions, he said.

He consulted with the school’s attorney who supported that it was justified that the tile be taken down if it was bothering students.

The reasoning for taking it down was because students were offended by it and did not want it right on the wall. It was a disruption in the classroom and that had to be taken into account, he said.

As of now, Prissel is not aware of other tiles being taken down.

A handful of people did reach out and parents were concerned about the situation. They’re not used to seeing McBain on social media for something controversial, he said.

There is a process in place for removing something like this, but in this case it was not followed and the teacher did not ask for permission beforehand.

“The staff needs to follow protocol,‘ he said. “So will they be reminded of that? Absolutely.‘

At the school they support different viewpoints, that’s part of being an educational institution. They are also responsible as a school district to hear students’ concerns, he said.

“I think people need to be sensitive on both sides,‘ he said.

An attempt to contact the teacher involved was unsuccessful.

Cadillac News