Superintendent releases letter about incident regarding flag of Kekistan

  • Two students at a recent Conant High School pep rally held up a flag that has become associated with white supremacy and the alt-right movement.  Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/2/2017 6:29:50 PM

A flag associated with white supremacy and the alt-right movement displayed at a Conant High School pep rally has caused the Superintendent of the Jaffrey-Rindge School District to send a letter to all Conant families. 

In a letter dated Sept. 29, Superintendent Reuben Duncan said the district needs to “look very closely at our own culture and analyze how we operate,” after the displaying of the flag led “to a disturbance within the school setting.”

“Though I am not at liberty to share investigation details, I can share that we have used and will continue to use this situation to reflect, to educate, and to work toward healing and reconciliation,” read the letter. “This will not be a short process, but the district is committed to this effort. The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District will not tolerate hatred or racism.”

The flag shown – which represents a fictional, ancient kingdom called Kekistan – mimics a German Nazi war flag and has become a popular alt-right and white supremacist symbol, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

“This flag, whose origins appear innocent, representing an imaginary country that has been in ‘existence’ for many years, has in more recent times been used by white supremacy groups as a symbol of hatred and racism,” read Duncan’s letter. In a subsequent interview, Duncan said the flag was displayed for about ten to 15 seconds at the Sept. 22 pep rally. 

Duncan said Monday afternoon that the district has investigated the matter and that “the facts do not point to any hateful speech.”

Isaac Sites, 17, of Jaffrey was one of the two students who held up the flag during the pep rally. 

Sites said Monday evening that the flag represents a “fictitious meme of frog people that has been around for years,” referencing the popular meme Pepe the Frog, who Sites said was seen as a “hippie frog guy” or a “feel good man” prior to his use as a symbol of the alt-right. 

Sites said he wasn’t aware that the frog had taken on a different meaning until after this situation occurred and he did some background research on the matter.

The Anti-Defamation League currently lists Pepe the Frog in its hate symbols database as an image now that now has ties to the alt-right movement, white supremacy, and racism. The Anti-Defamation League said not all memes involving Pepe are associated with the alt-right, but there is an increase in such memes. 

“Only recently has it occurred in white supremacy groups. I’m not in support of these groups,” said Sites. “I’m sorry that anyone was offended. We want to put this situation behind us, and it wasn’t my intention to offend anyone.”

Sites’ dad, Ryan, said that the showing of the flag was “an incredibly poor taste joke gone awry,” adding that his son had never been punished before now. Ryan said Isaac was punished, but would not elaborate as to what the punishment was. 

“It’s unfortunate,” Ryan said about the situation. “My son is a good kid, he’s never said anything racist in any capacity in his entire life.”

Sites won second place in the Jaffrey Civic Center’s Martin Luther King High School Student Poetry Contest in January, an award Sites has hanging in his bedroom. 

“MLK is one of his inspirational people in his life,” said Ryan. “The kid has never done anything like that in his life. Never once, not even a demerit for chewing gum.”

Peggy Reynolds, a Jaffrey mother with four students currently enrolled in the high school, said she was made aware of what happened at the school when her daughters came home after the pep rally, showing her Instagram and Snapchat photos of two students holding the flag. 

Three of Reynolds’ children are bi-racial, and the other is adopted. 

“They were angry and a little worried,” said Reynolds, of her childrens’ reactions. “I was very angry when I heard about it.”

Reynolds said she has been in communication with the New Hampshire Department of Education and will be filling a complaint about the matter. 

Duncan said in his letter that a group of students has approached the administration with “solutions to handling the matter,” saying that the students discussed the “importance of education and reconciliation in the short term” and “long-term commitment to promoting respect for diversity throughout the entire system.”

Duncan said he looks forward to working with students, faculty, and the community to ensure the district has a culture that respects diversity. 

Ledger-Transcript reporter Abby Kessler contributed to this report. 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT. 




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