Mandan Public Schools officials are investigating a "Trump 2020" flag featuring a profane slogan that was on display in a classroom at Mandan High School on Friday.
District spokeswoman Jessica Petrick told the Tribune on Friday that the flag was a student prank and was hung up only for two to three minutes. The district became aware of the flag late in the school day Friday, she said. The district in a statement Monday said it had learned more about the incident and that the flag had been brought to school by students and put on display for less than one class period.
The students allegedly involved were not in school Monday because of the district's hybrid learning schedule, but the school planned to follow up with them Tuesday, Superintendent Mike Bitz said. He said the teacher, Julie Fleck, was aware of the flag.
"Mistakes were made, and we're correcting it," Bitz said.
The flag violated the controversial topics section of the district's academic freedom policy, according to Bitz. The policy states teachers need administrative approval before presenting a controversial topic in class, and Bitz said elections always are a controversial issue.
The district was still looking into the incident, and any discipline to students or staff will not be made public, he said.
Mandan High School senior Mya Utter posted photos of the flag to Facebook late Friday with a caption saying the flag was not a prank and it was displayed for longer than a few minutes. She told the Tribune on Monday that she asked Fleck to take down the flag at the end of the class period. Utter also posted pictures of the flag on her Snapchat story during the day Friday, which school administrators had her delete because the posts violated the district's acceptable use of technology policy.
Utter said politics make some students uncomfortable and she doesn't think they belong in school, which is why she asked Fleck to take down the flag.
The Tribune reached out to Fleck via the district and did not immediately receive a response.
Close contact guidelines
The Mandan school district will follow the new guidelines for close contacts laid out by Gov. Doug Burgum at a briefing last week, Assistant Superintendent Jeff Fastnacht told the school board Monday.
People labeled close contacts will not be required to quarantine if both they and the person with COVID-19 they had contact with at school wore masks. The close contact must monitor his or her symptoms and quarantine only if symptoms develop.
Fastnacht said the change will help keep more students in the school setting.
Bismarck Public Schools on Monday also announced updated quarantine guidelines for close contacts following Burgum's change in guidance. Burgum announced the updated guidance partly to encourage more people to wear masks.
The Bismarck district also will review all previous school-related close contacts to see if both parties wore masks during exposure. The close contact can return to school if both people were wearing a mask and the contact is asymptomatic. BPS administrators will contact those who can return to school. Those not contacted should continue to quarantine.
A close contact living with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 must complete quarantine before returning to school or work, according to a statement from the district.
The district still will conduct contact tracing when notified of a positive case, and if one or both people were not wearing an "appropriate face covering" during exposure, the close contact will have to quarantine.
Mandan school board approves budget
The Mandan school board approved a final 2021 budget of $52.8 million on Monday.
The board did not approve any new mill levies for 2021, which means a property owner's taxes will not go up unless the property valuation increased. The school board mill levy is 107.95 mills. The district is projected to receive $53.2 million in revenue in 2021.
Reach Sam Nelson at 701-250-8264 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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