Cook County Schools is investigating an incident after a number of complaints were made to the district regarding the morning announcements Jan. 14.

According to a letter to the district and community Jan. 16 by Principal and acting Superintendent Megan Myers, the district is conducting an independent investigation into a matter that left many community members concerned and uncomfortable.

The letter did not say what the complaints were regarding the Jan. 14 morning announcements and a video has since been removed from the district’s YouTube page. The announcements are posted to the district’s YouTube page and Facebook page every morning by Assistant Principal Mitch Dorr.

The last morning announcement video was posted Jan. 15, though Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which schools typically take off.

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Dorr addressed the issue during the Jan. 15 announcement, saying he had a comic version of the Gadsden flag posted on his bulletin board, which had since been cleared. Dorr said in the video he used to teach history and that the Gadsden flag was invented during the Revolutionary War to pressure colonies to join together to fight the British.

The Gadsden flag, which shows a picture of a rattlesnake with the words “Don’t tread on me” on it against a yellow background, has been co-opted in recent years by the Tea Party and could be seen multiple times in the hands of rioters who participated in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Cook County Schools Assistant Principal Mitch Dorr addresses the Gadsden flag Jan. 15 that was seen in a previous morning announcement. (Photo courtesy of Cook County Schools)
Cook County Schools Assistant Principal Mitch Dorr addresses the Gadsden flag Jan. 15 that was seen in a previous morning announcement. (Photo courtesy of Cook County Schools)

According to Facebook posts, the version of the flag shown in the video allegedly said “Don’t let the mask become a muzzle” and has a picture of the rattlesnake wearing a mask. Comparing masks to muzzles has been used by those who oppose mask mandates during the pandemic.

“I didn’t realize some of the more present-day contexts would come out in that and I totally apologize to anybody who took that flag wrong,” Dorr said. “I know that it’s got more negative connotations in today’s era and in today’s world, and that was certainly not my intention.”

Dorr said in the Jan. 15 announcement that he was shocked by the comments and backlash as he didn’t think about the comic of the flag in that way.

“I’m here to try and lift up the students of Cook County Schools and treat each one like they’re my own kids,” Dorr said.

Myers told the News Tribune she could not comment any further on the incident or investigation and directed the reporter to the statement posted on Facebook. Myers also would not say if Dorr was put on administrative leave.