Teacher Who Stepped on American Flag in History Class Was Just Trying to Do His Job

Calm down. You don't have to agree with everything that everyone says -- you just have to agree that people have a right to say it. It's the founding principle of our country. Which is why it's so ludicrous that a teacher who stepped on an American flag to make a point about free speech isn't just worried about his job, but his life.


Lee Francis is a new teacher at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, who was teaching an honors American history class on the Supreme Court decision Texas v. Johnson -- a decision that ruled that burning or stepping on an American flag is protected speech under the First Amendment.

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He stepped on the flag to illustrate the point, and all hell broke loose.

"It was just a couple of taps to make the point that the case that Texas v. Johnson said it was okay," Francis told the New York Post. "It was really a simple demonstration to show what my First Amendment rights entail, that as an American, this is something I have a right to do."

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Not in North Carolina, apparently.

Two students got up and left the room, and Francis says he has since received numerous death threats. He also told the Post that he's got an upcoming meeting with school officials to see if he'll keep his job.

Really? Death threats for a history lesson on the Constitution?

According to comments on a Facebook post, reportedly by a parent at the school, there's plenty of outrage over the teacher "desecrating" the American flag.

Here's one comment: "Shame on him and anyone else who disrespects our flag! Wouldn't allow my child to remain in his class or at that school if they refuse to see the wrong."

Other commenters pointed out that Fayetteville is a military town: "That teacher is an idiot. It's a military town for crying out loud."

Not only is what he did legal and protected, as he was trying to demonstrate to his class, but he was trying to make a larger point about how our very democracy functions. We live in a country where our military fights and dies to protect every American's right to say whatever he or she wants -- whether it's standing up to government, speaking out about injustice, or hurling insults. In fact, I would argue the act of protecting people's right to say things you don't agree with is the most American thing you can do, because it requires mutual respect and gives everyone a fair say.

Don't take my word for it. Read the powerful words from a group of veterans who wrote an open letter in support of Colin Kaepernick's recent national anthem protests, including:

As veterans, we implore all Americans to find your own way to challenge this status quo and advocate for 'a more perfect union.' Your method of protest may not be to refrain from the traditions surrounding our national symbols, and it doesn't have to be.

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As parents we need to understand that raising educated people sometimes means exposing them to the viewpoints and opinions of people you don't necessarily agree with. Getting up and stomping out of the room doesn't change the meaning of the Constitution or that it says Americans have every right to step on the flag if that's how they choose to express themselves. And censoring and bullying our educators out of teaching our kids facts is a terrible reaction that we should all recognize.

Let's do better than this by our teachers, and our kids too. And if you need any further proof that Mr. Francis is exactly the kind of teacher we should want for our kids, ask yourself this question: Will any of his students ever forget the precedent set by Texas v. Johnson?

I rest my case.


Image via Pixabay


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