The sun was just beginning to rise over the Rocky Mountains, but Sheriff Justin Smith was already awake. He was standing outside Fort Collins High School – shivering in the frigid cold.
It was 12 degrees. Snow was falling. But Mr. Smith, wearing his dress blues, stood resolute, waving an American flag.
The sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado had come to school Tuesday to send a message to those responsible for educating the county's children. The sheriff was not in a good mood.
He was standing in the winter snow to protest the school's decision to ban a celebration of American patriotism.
The student council had wanted to designate a day during Spirit Week to celebrate the red, white & blue. The young people called it "'Merica Monday." But the school turned down their request.
"They said they didn't want to offend anyone from other countries or immigrants," a 16-year-old member of the student council told me. "They just really did not want to make anyone feel uncomfortable."
But after a day of righteous Rocky Mountain outrage, the principal at Fort Collins High School reversed course and apologized. Principal Mark Eversole sent a letter to parents announcing that next Monday would in fact be America Day.
Following is the entire letter that was obtained by Fox News Radio affiliate KCOL:
"We apologize for our recent decision regarding My Country Monday and that it was seen as not patriotic. This could not be further from the truth. The original intent of Spread the Love week at Fort Collins High School was to unify the student body. When students first proposed "Merica Monday," we felt that it was against this unifying theme and disrespectful to our country. Merica is a slang term that is often used in a negative stereotypical way to describe life in the United States. This is what led us to discuss alternatives with students. We were surprised that our community interpreted our actions as anti-American. We are a proud public school in America and support many activities to celebrate our great nation. Due to this outpouring of sentiment and misinterpretation of our intentions, we have decided to rename the first day of Spread the Love week to "America Day" as opposed to "Merica Day." We look forward to enjoying the creativity and energy of our students as they celebrate their patriotism next week."
That's not exactly how parents or students recall the events. They said they suggested "America Monday" but administrators rejected that idea. And members of the student council were adamant that the only reason the event was barred was to prevent non-Americans from being offended.
It seems to me that a public school administrator got caught with his hand in the multicultural cookie jar.
While the school should be commended for doing the right thing and allowing students to celebrate America, whoever would have thought that American teenagers would be treated as second-class citizens in their own country?
And that's why Sheriff Smith was standing in the bitter cold; waving his American flag – the one that normally flew outside his home.
"We can't and we won't stand for that kind of attitude in our schools," Sheriff Smith told me in a telephone interview. "It's our country. They're our community schools. We will take them back and restore the values – the ones that made America the great nation it is today."
"I realized I could not just sit on the sidelines," he said. "I had to stand up and do something." Within minutes, he was joined by a dozen others – an uprising of patriots sick and tired of the anti-American venom spewing from public school administrators.
"This is really a sign of root problems we have," he said. "A lot of us understand -- this anti-American sentiment has poisoned our schools – the ideas and beliefs that are preached to them."
A sort of grassroots protest movement unfolded early Tuesday on KCOL, the local news radio station that carries my daily commentary. Callers unleashed their fury over the airwaves. Students from the high school emailed passionate messages.
Among them, was a young man – a tenth grader who asked not to be identified.
"I'm personally outraged at the school that we can celebrate every other culture but our own," this young American teenager wrote. "We have activities that go on during Cinco de Mayo but we can't celebrate and honor our own country [where] we live I'm very angry."
As Sheriff Smith and his frozen band of patriots waved their flags, drivers honked their horns, bus drivers waved and students stopped to watch.
"It was important to send a message to students," the sheriff said. "They needed to know they are not alone and that they did the right thing by standing up. I hope when they and their parents saw their sheriff standing out in front of the school – they knew they weren't alone." The sheriff is correct. These brave young men and women are not alone. We are compelled to stand alongside our fellow countrymen at Fort Collins High School.
Patriotism must never be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.
"This is a wake up call," Sheriff Smith said. "We've been given the blessing of a wake up call as to what is going on (in our school). Now the question is -- what do we do about it?"