UPDATE: Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Steve Joel apologized Thursday for a decision by a district administrator to ask welding students not to fly U.S. flags because of safety concerns. He said students can fly flags whenever they want.
Concerns about student safety and potential disruptions prompted administrators at Lincoln Public Schools' Career Academy to ask welding students not to fly U.S. flags on their vehicles from holders they made in class.
Career Academy Director Dan Hohensee said staff there was concerned reaction to the flags could result in confrontations or disrupt the learning environment, given the divisive presidential election.
The directive prohibiting displaying the flags in the school's parking lot was prompted by an incident on Friday, when a Southeast Community College student removed one of the flags from a holder and put it in the bed of a pickup next to the vehicle flying the flag.
Seven or eight welding students had flown the flags in recognition of Veterans Day with permission of Career Academy officials, who thought it was a great ending to the students’ welding project, Hohensee said.
High school students also had participated in a short Veterans Day ceremony organized by SCC students.
Later that morning, however, someone took down one of the flags.
An SCC student reported the incident, which didn’t result in any damage to either the vehicle or the flag, Hohensee said. There was no altercation, and at this point, no one knows why the student removed the flag from its holder.
But the fact it happened highlighted the potential for problems and “out of an abundance of caution” for both LPS and SCC students, Career Academy administrators asked students not to fly the flags again in the parking lot.
Hohensee said administrators worried that another such incident could result in a personal confrontation or property damage.
The students have handled the situation well, despite some frustration on their part, he said.
They'll consider letting students fly the flags on another appropriate day, such as Presidents Day, Hohensee said.
Administrators only talked to the welding students, not all Career Academy students, and their concern doesn't include small flags or bumper or window stickers featuring American flags.
That's different than flying a full-sized flag, which was appropriate on Veterans Day but on other days could be misinterpreted in light of the divisive election and anxiety like that expressed by Nebraska Latinos in a recent news story, Hohensee said.
Nebraska Latino leaders said Nebraskans have reached out to the Latino American Commission with concerns they'll be deported or lose their temporary legal status once Trump become president.
“It evokes an emotional response from both ends of the spectrum,” he said.
The Friday incident was caught on tape, and campus security at SCC is trying to identify the student who removed the flag so officers can talk to him and find out why, Hohensee said.
It was not reported to police.
Although LPS provides busing for all students to the half-day Career Academy on the SCC campus at 88th and O streets, about 20 percent of the students have permission to drive, Hohensee said.