MAPLETON – At least one student has been suspended for breaking Maple River School District policy after driving a truck displaying a Confederate flag near a group of protesters and knocking one over.
A dining room employee was also put on administrative leave as school officials investigate an allegation the employee made vague threats to a woman who brought a Black Lives Matter sign to a game home football game.
April Valliant said her son, a high school student, was suspended from Maple River High School for five days because he hoisted a Confederate flag on the bed of his truck as he drove past the school on Monday . He flaunted a Blue Lives Matter flag alongside each other.
Several students and community members gathered outside the school to express their dismay that a man snatched a Black Lives Matter sign from a woman’s hands and threw it over a railing during Friday night’s homecoming soccer game.
Laura Nusser, the woman holding the sign, said she brought it to the game due to an allegation her son made earlier today. His son, who is a black man and plays on the soccer team, told him that a student chanted at a Friday homecoming activity “Blacks in the back” of a line that s was trained to watch a volleyball match.
She said school officials removed a video of the activity and a white student raised his hand and chanted the chorus after someone else first said it. It is not known whether either of the two students was suspended or otherwise sanctioned.
Although the Maple River School Superintendent. Dan Anderson did not answer a phone call and did not say how many students were suspended for what actions, he said in an emailed statement until after an investigation into the two incidents , “any student violating district policy has been suspended.”
But Nusser spoke directly to a school official who said several students had been suspended.
Nusser’s sons said they were interviewed by school officials who found video of the incident during Friday’s get-home activity, which allowed them to identify who lifted the fist and sang the song.
“All students are welcome at Maple River,” said the superintendent. “Contrary behavior has never been and will never be tolerated. We will continue to work with law enforcement to ensure the safety and well-being of every student in Maple River.
Valliant said his son usually had the flag on his truck and did not hoist it in response to the protests taking place near the school. He was returning from a date just before 2 p.m., she said, when he saw a television crew alongside protesters outside the school.
She said he turned around and walked down Silver Street so his flag could be filmed, then knocked down a protester, allegedly in response to the first gesture made to him.
Valliant believes his son was wrongly suspended. She believes he has the freedom to speak by flying the flag, adding that “the Confederate flag is not about racism, if someone is really making their story.”
Nusser stood there Monday afternoon as Valliant’s son drove his truck past the school. She said several protesters were holding signs and approached one of the many passing trucks, attempting to confront and speak with the drivers.
She said Mapleton Police Department chief Ben Honsey “expressed how unhappy he was with the way they were displaying the Blue Line flag along with the Confederate flag, that these two shouldn’t. be deployed together, but there was nothing he could do about it. “
Honsey did not respond directly to the incident, but said in an email that Mapleton Police “will continue to work on ongoing investigations and defuse tensions within our community.”
Valliant, who uses the name April May on Facebook, appears to think Nusser arranged for a man to torment his son after the incident.
“Last night my son called me to inform me that he had gone to the gas station and that there was a man who wanted to start fighting against my son because he had a Confederate flag. in his truck, ”Valliant said.
Nusser denies doing so, claiming that several of her sons’ friends in Mankato are upset and may have threatened to fight but do not live with her.
Regardless, when Nusser was away from home on Monday night, she received a disturbing message from her son.
“Come back home,” he said just after 11pm. Two unknown men were waiting outside Nusser’s house in a sports car.
His two sons, 17 and 14, had called to say that two men had shown up while at home with the eldest son’s 16-year-old girlfriend. The men wanted to know if any adults were at home.
When Nusser’s eldest son said no, he said to his mother, a man asked him, “How old are you? “
“I was angry… I was angry. I wanted to call the cops, ”Nusser recalls as she walked home.
A video that Nusser posted to Facebook shows a light-colored car rumbling loudly as it turns a corner and pulls away.
As soon as she got home, she texted Valliant, who admitted that “the people who showed up at your door were my other half and my ex because they were defending my child against your man,” show screenshots.
Valliant told The Free Press his son believed the man who threatened him at the gas station would be at Nusser’s home. Her ex and best friend visited the house on behalf of the children to speak with the adults, she said.
“They and my ex would never go to the kids. That’s what they were there to do: protect my children, ”she said. “We didn’t want the cops all involved, we didn’t want all the hype.”
Nusser said she shared the messages with police.
“I’m pretty glad I wasn’t there to be honest. What if they tried to fight me because I was the adult at home? ” she said
Honsey said police did not learn of the report of two men visiting Nusser’s home until a third party informed them about noon on Tuesday. He said that after interviewing two teenagers, it was determined that there had been no threats or criminal violations.
It wasn’t the first fear Nusser had about someone coming to her house.
After the soccer game on Friday night, Nusser said, a woman named Kristy Jacobsen messaged her on Facebook saying she was upset by Nusser’s “episode” during the game.
Jacobsen, who The Free Press identified as an employee of the breakfast service in Maple River, told Nusser that all lives matter and asked to come to her house to speak “face to face.”
“So we can talk about how you brought racism into our homecoming soccer game,” Jacobsen said in screenshots provided by Nusser. When Nusser refused to meet you, the other woman replied, “I’m ready to come and meet you face to face now, but it looks like you are slipping away.”
Supt. Anderson said Jacobsen was on administrative leave pending an investigation into Nusser’s allegations.
Nusser, who moved to Mapleton from Mankato about two years ago, said she was now afraid to leave home while working out of town.
After his sons stayed awake late Monday night, upset over meeting the two, they asked him to email their football coach and let him know they should miss the team’s practice. morning. She has accepted.
Although Nusser wants an assembly to confront racist beliefs that she says are widely held or encouraged by high school students in Maple River, her two sons told her they were happy school officials were taking it seriously. .
The school’s football coach, in particular, is said to have spoken to the players after discovering that the individual who chanted “Blacks behind the back” was on the football team. Nusser’s two sons are also part of the team.
Her children have two different fathers, one of whom lives in Indiana while the other lives in Mankato. The boys aren’t in touch with the closest man, she said, so she felt lonely supporting two biracial children in a predominantly white town that she says has shown intolerance.
Nusser said some people had reached out in support, but feared the social repercussions of protesting alleged racist incidents.
Many attendees said that Nusser behaved loudly and inappropriately during the soccer game. Many suggested that she put her Black Lives Matter sign in her yard or speak directly to school officials. A confrontational protest, in their view, was the wrong way to demand reform.
An 18-minute Facebook live video posted by Nusser details the chain of events from the soccer match. Another video from a bystander shows the man picking up his sign and throwing it over the fence.
Police escorted her out of the room after school administrators told them she had to go because of her “offensive language.” The man who took Nusser’s sign, apparently without her directly provoking him, was allowed to return to his seat and stay in the game.
She said it bothered her that people covered the man while an officer questioned witnesses, without directing police to where he was sitting. Finally, she walked into the stands and distinguished him herself.
Mapleton Police said they were investigating Friday night’s incident and would send the results to the Blue Earth County District Attorney for a prosecution decision.
“They all go together, saying racism is not a problem at Mapleton, but then how come all these posts show you that it is?” said Nusser.
“I just wished it all went out, really, because I don’t want anyone to come to my house.”