By Juliette Goodrich

BRENTWOOD (KPIX 5) — Students are fighting to keep an East Bay history teacher from being transferred to another high school, claiming he’s being punished after video showed him taking a knee during a flag raising ceremony.

The video of Brentwood’s Heritage High School US history teacher Tyler Rust, taken by an angry student who can be heard shouting expletives at the teacher, shows Rust kneeling while the American flag was being raised on campus by some ROTC students.

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The student taking the video cab be heard saying the teachers actions were disrespectful to the flag and the United States military.

When what his message was when he took a knee, Rust replied, “I teach history and so the history of racial violence is state mandated. I have to talk about JROTC.  I took a knee not to be disrespectful to the flag; it’s meant to draw attention to racial violence in our country.”

Rust said that while he did take a knee in the video and on other occasions, he never protested during school hours.

The video has stirred up a lot of emotion and debate at Heritage High School.

Some students claim the video of the protest is one of the reasons Liberty Union High School District officials are transferring Rust to Liberty High School across town.

“I like any teacher who gets me to think more critically,” said Heritage High School senior Isaiah Youngblood, one of a number of Heritage students who spoke highly of Rust.

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An online petition to protest his removal has gathered more than 10,000 signatures. The petition started by two Heritage High students.

“Transferring Mr. Rust is equivalent to silencing marginalized students on campus, especially students of color,” said Rezahn Abraha, one of the students behind the petition and a member of the Heritage Black Student Union.

Rust is currently still teaching at the school and says he will remain at Heritage High “as long as they let me,” but won’t fight the district’s decision to move him if it is finalized.

Rust also says he couldn’t be prouder of his students, who he didn’t ask to start the petition to keep him at Heritage High.

“I’m really proud of these kids. Whatever happens to me — I will teach wherever they want and I’m happy to have the opportunity — I’m really proud of what these kids are doing. It says a lot about them.”

The students plan to present the petition to the Liberty Union High School District board meeting Wednesday night when officials will announce their decision on whether Rust is transferred to the new school.

When asked if he would be continuing his protests during flag raising ceremonies at his new school if he is moved, Rust simply replied, “I don’t know.”

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Juliette Goodrich