An act of solidarity was met with a contentious retort inside one Missouri high school earlier this month.
But their symbolic act was met with a controversial symbol brought forth by students not on board with their message of acceptance, NBC affiliate KY3 reported.
In the cafeteria not long after — as select students displayed their rainbow flags on their backpacks, in their hair or carried them through hallways — a few disagreeing classmates proudly held up a large Confederate flag.
One student’s social media post documenting the situation reportedly read: “If they can fly their queer flags, others can fly their rebel flags 😂 Butt hurt?”
Rose Schilmoeller, the sophomore student behind the Pride movement, ordered the 60 flags to hand out at school, and told KY3 she thought it would be a “good way to show people that they’re not alone,” not start a heated scene.
“I was kind of mad because you can have your flag and that’s fine, but it’s like they were using it as retaliation,” she told the outlet.
Before school administrators confiscated the Confederate flag, one student told BuzzFeed News that some of her classmates fled the scene to call their parents to pick them up.
The student also claimed that others were shouting anti-gay slurs in the moment.
“To us it was just like retaliation to people who were holding their own [Pride] flags,” said the student. “The worst part is that others were backing them up.”
RELATED VIDEO: Tom Colicchio Changes the Name of His Restaurant After Learning of Its Racially-Charged Meaning
In a statement to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for the school said that rather than issue punishments in this case, administration decided to use the situation as a teachable moment on peacefully debating points of view.
“[Recently] groups of high school students chose to bring banners to school, and while we respect student’s first amendment rights, however, we became aware the banners were used by some members of the groups to taunt other students, and that is not acceptable,” read the statement.
The statement continued: “Rather than deal with this [as] a disciplinary matter, we chose to deal with it as a learning experience. No disciplinary actions were taken. Our hope is to teach our students to respect each other and to respect different viewpoints on a variety of societal issues.”
Two of the students who displayed Pride flags told BuzzFeed they weren’t trying to make anyone upset — and that they’re not sure reprimands would resolve their ideologies anyway.
“A lot of students don’t have parents who support them,” said one student, a 15-year-old sophomore named Marianne. “We were just trying to show that we’re proud of who we are.”
Added her classmate Taylor: “They did it off of hatred in retaliation, but I don’t think you can change their minds by giving them a punishment. … Especially because there are people who agree with them. They’re not alone at all.”