CROSBY, Minn. -- What could have been a tense situation Tuesday morning at Crosby-Ironton High School resulted in a compromise between school officials and a student.
Senior Cody Nelson was sent home for the day Monday morning after he arrived at the school parking lot with a Confederate flag displayed from the back window of his white Ford Taurus.
Tuesday, he returned with his mother Dorene Nelson and few supportive family friends and met with school officials about his return. After meeting for nearly an hour, Dorene Nelson said Cody would finish out the school week and park on a street on the north side of the school before graduating with his classmates Friday.
"We went in there with a positive attitude today and not to cause any problems with the school," Dorene Nelson said. "We went in there believing in what we believe in, the Confederate flag and the American flag and respect for the school."
The group met with Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland and Cody's school counselor, Dorene Nelson said. Cody agreed to compromise with the school on where he can fly the flag on his car, family friend Curt Shannon said.
"The school representatives themselves were very accommodating," Shannon said. "They were very respectful."
School officials also said they would look at their policy on school dress and appearance, family friend Joe Pozega said, in order to prevent a situation like Tuesday's from happening again.
"I think everybody came out happy," Pozega said.
Skjeveland said he couldn't comment on the meeting with the Nelsons, citing Minnesota's Data Practices Act, which outlines the privacy of data relating to public school students. The school will continue to focus on its goal of providing a good education for its students, he said, and preparing them for college and the workforce.
Cody was relieved, confident and proud, Dorene Nelson said, after the situation Tuesday morning was over.
"He's got kind of a swagger to him that he stood up," Pozega said. "And the stress is gone."
The group is proud of the outcome, Dorene Nelson said. She's got two more children who will attend the high school, "so each year is a new year," she said.
"I guess we'll see where we stand on going for the future," Dorene Nelson said. "And we will continue to stand proud for whatever we believe in and we're not going to stop."
Cody's flying of the Confederate flag is his right, Dorene Nelson said.
"We have the right to be who we are and we should stand up for what we believe in and that's what this kid went for," Dorene Nelson. "And I stood behind him 100 percent along with these fine folks."
Ryan Johnson and Bill Philstrom stopped by the school's student parking lot Tuesday morning because Philstrom's son brought a note home from school Monday telling parents about the possible situation Tuesday, Johnson said.
"This struck a chord with me," Johnson said. "People say the flag represents slavery and it doesn't. The Civil War wasn't fought over slavery, it was fought over currency. It only became about slavery near the end."
The Confederate flag is a part of the country's history, Johnson said, and many people don't bother to research what the flag represents.
"There's a lot of assumptions out there," Johnson said. "People take what's fed to them, they don't do the research."
The issue with Cody's Nelson's Confederate flag is an issue of free speech, Johnson said.
"If someone identifies with the Confederate flag, they have the freedom of expression to fly it," Johnson said. "It's freedom of speech, period. The Constitution guarantees liberty not comfort."
The Confederate flag isn't a racist symbol, Philstrom said, and "none of us believes in racism at all."
Philstrom's son has been wearing a belt buckle with a Confederate flag on it for a long time, he said, but only yesterday started to get picked on for wearing it.
"He wore it every other day and today it's an issue," Philstrom said.
After the Nelsons went into the school, a group of three vehicles driven by students showed up to show their support. Two Dodge trucks and a Chevrolet Blazer between them flew a Confederate flag, an American flag and a Gadsden flag, which features a rattlesnake and the words "Don't Tread on Me."
The vehicles made laps around the school and parked briefly in two different spots on an avenue across from the student parking lot. At one point, a male student climbed on top of the Blazer and held up the Gadsden flag.
"Rebel for life, it's not racist," he said as he held the flag.
Philstrom's son was among the students in the vehicles and was joined by another student with a Confederate flag belt buckle. At one point they parked on the street next to a "No Parking at Any Time" sign, shortly after which they were asked to move.
Students filed into the school while the vehicles were parked nearby and a few commented on their presence, but many seemed to ignore them.
"All of this is for nothing," a female student said. "I go to school with idiots."
"Story of my life," responded the male student walking with her.
Two Crosby Police squad cars were parked at the entrances to the student parking lot. An officer said they aren't normally at the school in the morning but Tuesday was a special occasion. They were positioned to make sure demonstrators didn't block traffic, he said.
The Nelsons arrived shortly after 8 a.m., with Cody's vehicle joined by two pickup trucks flying Confederate flags. They briefly discussed what should happen before deciding to go into the school's office to meet with school officials.
"I'm not trying to be racist," Cody Nelson said.
"This is not about racism," Shannon responded. "The flag isn't about racism, despite what these people are programming the rest of society and the media to believe."
As the Nelsons and their supporters stood on the sidewalk outside the school, someone in a passing van called them "nutjobs."
"Aren't you brave," Shannon responded, "saying that from a passing car."
As the Nelsons and their supporters walked into the school, groups of students stood by and looked at them.
"They're just watching," Shannon said. "This is a media spectacle."