Students display controversial flags during school, district launches investigation

WEST PLAINS, Mo. -- A display of pride and a controversial response has students and staff talking in West Plains.
It centers around two symbols with different messages: gay pride and the Confederate flag.

A day after a student handed out pride flags in the cafeteria, another group of students responded by displaying a confederate flag in the lunchroom.

The district won't reveal details of its investigation but says the safety and education of students is the utmost concern.

Sophomore Rose Schilmoeller passed out nearly 60 Pride flags Monday at school.

"People would put them like sticking out of backpacks or just carry them around," she told KY3.

Her underlying message wasn't something she wanted to rub in others' faces.

"A good way to show people that they're not alone," Schilmoeller added.

"On Monday, I saw a girl walking down the hallway and she had like a gay pride flag in her hair- in her ponytail," junior Abigail Lipford said.

The next day, some other students displayed a Confederate flag at lunch.

"I noticed two boys get up and they have the Confederate Flag and they're like showing it to the lunchroom in the senior cafe," Lipford explained.

"I was kind of mad because you can have your flag and that's fine but it's like they were using it as retaliation," Schilmoeller exclaimed.

Lipford says an administrator ended up confiscating the confederate flag.

"Everyone was just really confused I think. They were like what is happening," Lipford stated.

"It's like they were mocking us, but not only was it that they were mocking us, they also brought in a completely different subject because people were offended by the type of flag they had," sophomore Taylor Pool told KY3.

Now the school is looking into the situation.

"It wasn't just LGBT kids, there were also straight kids, Christian kids, standing up for us because they also didn't believe in all the hate other people were giving us," Pool explained.

In a statement, district leaders say they are committed to addressing the concerns being raised by students, parents, and members of the community.

Here is the full statement:

The West Plains School District has been made aware of recent displaying of flags on the high school campus during school hours. While we are unable to comment specifically on an ongoing investigation, all board policies will be followed. The West Plains School District is committed to addressing the concerns being raised by our students, parents, and community. The safety and education of our students is our utmost concern. We will continue to be proactive in our efforts to keep students safe, while providing them with the highest-quality education.