Students at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, N.C., received an unforgettable history lesson Sept. 19 when their teacher Lee Francis stomped on the American flag as a demonstration of free speech under the First Amendment.
N.C. teacher Lee Francis (Facebook Photo)
Francis, a new teacher to Massey Hill, has since been suspended on paid leave, however, after offended students and parents complained about his lesson.
According to news reports, Francis initially tried to burn and cut the flag to illustrate the First Amendment right, but, in the end, resulted to stomping on it.
“I put the flag on the ground, and I took two steps with my right foot and I said, ‘This is an example of free speech,’” Francis told CNN affiliate WRAL. “Two students got up and left immediately with no word, no disruption at all … I assumed something had happened. One student came to where I was and took the flag from me.”
Alex Dunn, one of the students who walked out during Francis’ demonstration, told ABC that he found Francis’s lesson insulting because his father is in the Army. Dunn submitted a photo of his teacher standing on the flag to ABC, and other students also posted images online, which have gone viral.
“This is part of their curriculum?!?!” Sara Taylor, a parent whose daughter attends Massey Hill, wrote on Facebook. “With the County getting so much funding for our military kids at this school, I ask the question of mutual respect, nothing less, nothing more. That flag might not mean anything to that teacher, but it means a lot to us and it means a lot to the family’s (sic) who had their service member come home to them in a casket with that flagged draped over it.”
Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till Jr. said in a statement that an investigation is underway, but commented, “Clearly there are other ways to teach First Amendment rights without desecrating a flag.”
Francis said he has relatives in the military.
“I think he’s right, absolutely there could be other ways to teach the subject. But in the same vein the way I taught, it can’t necessarily be wrong,” Francis told WRAL.
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina agreed.
“One of the reasons our country is great is that the Constitution gives people the right to free speech and expression, no matter how much others may disagree or be uncomfortable with the message,” Mike Meno, an ACLU spokesman said, according to The Fayetteville Observer. “And that is certainly a lesson worth teaching. The very freedoms and principles that the American flag represents include the freedom to stomp on the flag.”