Greg Stoneburner, a senior who just graduated from Central High School in Grand Junction, Colo., said he was told in no uncertain terms that he was no longer welcome at the school after raising a Gadsden flag on the school’s flagpole. Moreover, he told Examiner.com in an exclusive interview Friday, the principal withheld his flag and his diploma until after his graduation walk.
The incident, he said on Facebook, took place on May 9. That’s when he replaced the school’s flag with the yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” banner often associated with the Tea Party as a senior prank. He also posted a paper to the pole that told the history of the flag.
The prank didn’t sit too well with Jodie Diers, the principal of Central High School, who was livid over the prank. Other students, Stoneburner told Examiner, claimed she was angrily yelling to have the flag pulled down when she first saw it. According to Stoneburner, she pulled him out of a scholarship breakfast and told him and his parents the flag was a “slap in the face” to the school. She then said he was “not welcome” at Central High.
“She also confiscated my flag,” he wrote, even though she admitted he had not violated any law or school policy. Her reasoning, Stoneburner said, was that anything on the pole was school property.
“So my property was confiscated without due process,” he added. “I was denied access to a public institution because the principal didn’t like what I did.”
In his view, Diers’ actions amounted to theft, and she had no legal basis for banishing him from the school as he did not present a health, safety, or welfare risk. His parents, he said, were entertained by the prank and thought the school went too far.
Stoneburner admitted on Facebook that he “pushed the envelope to the line,” but, he added, he “didn’t cross it, and the principal wrongfully and without base, used her power for personal revenge.” He also said he believes his pro-Constitution libertarian views may have played a role in her actions.
He finally got his diploma and his flag, but hasn’t decided what further action to take, if any. He said, however, he is willing to let it go, as he has been accepted to Western State Colorado University where he plans to get a degree in geology.
Diers did not respond to our request for comments, and no one answered the school’s main office phone.