LEXINGTON, Mo. -- Dozens of teens gathered Monday at the Lafayette County Courthouse to protest social media posts made by one of their peers. They say the posts were racist and want him to stop.
But the 16-year-old's mother says they were meant as a joke, and her son is anything but racist.
On Monday, Mya Brooks sat on her couch, scrolling through a number of posts. The 19-year-old stopped on one that displays a variety of flags on the floor of someone's home, including a Nazi flag and a KKK flag.
"Every day his posts are just constantly about KKK this, Nazi this, and it's like, 'OK, this is just getting out of hand,'" Brooks said.
He also posted about introducing people to the barrel of his gun. A post on Instagram reads: "Hey, if you ever want to meet that gun face to barrel I'll gladly introduce you all."
Brooks said the posts by the Lexington teen are making her and her friends uncomfortable.
"How could you even say something like that to somebody? Why would you want to physically harm someone or hurt somebody's feelings?" Brooks said.
His classmates have taken to social media and the courthouse steps to, in their words, rally against hate.
"He`s not going to realize that it's not OK until somebody stands up and lets him know," Brooks said.
But one community leader said there's more to the story and the students who protested.
"This is a tight-knit community that we live in," said the town leader who didn't want to be identified due to "small town retaliation." "We all embrace one another. This is something that has gotten out of hand, and before somebody gets hurt, this needs to stop."
The boy's mother, Devon Lile, admitted her son did make the posts, but agrees the situation is out of control.
"He's posted certain flags. He's posted some Ku Klux Klan things, not that I agree with that," Lile said.
The Lexington mom said her son didn't mean them the way they were taken by the other kids in town. She said it's not about his feelings towards other races but his interest in the Confederacy and the history of World War II.
"He likes the history of it. That's where this all stemmed from. No, my son is not a racist," Lile said.
She said her son is a straight-A student and an Eagle Scout. She also said he knows what he did was wrong.
"They have blown this way out of the water," Lile said. "Yes. Was it bad that he put it on there? Yes. Do I condone it? No. He knows it`s wrong, and now he`s got to live with it."
"You can do it all in your head. You can write in your journal, do whatever you want to do to cope with however you feel about people of color," Brooks said. "Just don't publicly post it everywhere, broadcast it or call people names that hurt their feelings."
Lexington School District Superintendent Jeff Levy issued a statement since many students felt uncomfortable about the posts, and some told FOX4 he frequently said racist comments at school but nothing was done.
"The District is aware that there is concern in the community regarding circumstances which may involve students of the District.
"Even though school is not in session, the District is investigating these recent incidents and making a plan to ensure that we are appropriately responsive to this unrest. Ensuring that our school environment is safe for all students and free from discrimination and harassment means that even when things occur off campus, we are taking proactive steps within our walls to support our kids.
"At the beginning of the upcoming 2018-2019 school year, staff and students will be reminded of the District’s policy against discrimination, and educated regarding what language is acceptable and appropriate in the school environment. The District also plans to provide students with information about how to be a good digital citizen.
"We appreciate the community’s concern and ongoing support."
Lexington Mayor Fred Wiedner also issued a statement on the issue to FOX4:
"Lexington is not a place for intolerance. Our city welcomes everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious faith, or political affiliations. As Mayor, I strongly condemn any undermining of diversity in our community - and want to stress that the voice of one or two does not speak for the 4,700+ residents of Lexington."