North Carolina teacher steps on U.S. flag as part of free-speech lesson, reports say | cleveland.com
North Carolina teacher steps on U.S. flag as part of free-speech lesson, reports say
FAYETTVILLE, North Carolina — A teacher trying to give a lesson on free speech is accused of stomping on a U.S. flag, causing a controversy that is gaining national attention and resulting in him being placed on leave.
Lee Francis, a history teacher at Massey Hill Classical High School, tells the Fayetteville Observer he stepped on the flag two or three times while talking about the court case Texas v. Johnson, a ruling which says flag desecration is protected by the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights.
“It’s really disconcerting,” he said. “My question to everyone is who is entitled to freedom of speech? Does everyone have access to freedom of speech? It’s unfortunate that all this has happened.”
A student, Alex Dunn, sent a photo of Francis to WTVD Channel 11 showing Francis with his foot on the flag. Photos also were posted online by other students, reports say.
WTVD reports the photos upset the parents of several students, who want Francis fired. Some parents say they plan to remove their children from Francis’ class.
Fort Bragg is located in Fayettville, and many of the students have parents serving with the military, the Observer reports.
“Freedom of speech is one of the bedrock foundations guaranteed in our Constitution,” said Francis De Luca, a retired Marine colonel and the president of the conservative think tank Civitas Institute of Raleigh. “This teacher, in his attempt to teach about freedom, dishonored those soldiers’ commitment and sacrifice by cutting, burning and stomping on the flag that represents the country they swore an oath to defend.”
The American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina said Francis’ lesson “is worth teaching.”
“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, a spokesman for the organization, tells the Observer.
The school district is investigating the incident.