Freedom of Expression or a crime?

Discussion in 'Other US Flag Etiquette' started by CapeFearPirate, Sep 21, 2016.

  1. Here's a link to the article and pictures:

    A history teacher in Cumberland County was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday after coming under fire for stepping on the U.S. flag as part of a lesson on the First Amendment.

    Lee Francis, who teaches at Massey Hill Classical High School, said he is scheduled to meet with Cumberland County Schools system officials Thursday to discuss the incident stemming from a lesson in his American History class.

    “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.”

    Francis was informed by the school district’s human resources department he’ll remain on leave until the investigation is complete.

    Pictures have started going viral on social media showing Francis standing over a crumpled flag in front of his class at Massey Hill Classical High School.

    A Facebook user named Sara Taylor, who said her child has a friend in Francis’ class, posted a photo of Francis’ foot on the flag during the lesson. In a post online, Taylor wrote Francis asked the students for a lighter or scissors. No one had one, she said, which is when Francis put the flag on the floor and “stomped” on it.

    Francis said he stepped on the flag between two and three times.

    Cumberland County Superintendent Frank Till Jr. said he learned of the incident Tuesday morning. He said he is waiting to get all the facts before determining if any action should be taken against the teacher.

    “I don’t want to make any comments until I get it sorted all out,” Till said.

    Francis is defending himself on Facebook.

    He posted that the lesson was about Texas v. Johnson, a case that upheld that flag desecration was protected by the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights.

    The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina echoed Francis’ statement on 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, said. “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.”

    There is a North Carolina law, General Statute 14-381, that says it is unlawful “to cast contempt upon any flag of the United States or upon any flag of North Carolina by public acts of physical contact including, but not limited to, mutilation, defiling, defacing or trampling.

    “Any person violating this section shall be deemed guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.”

    A friend of the teacher’s (Francis) his commented that Francis was “just showing a point and teaching.” Francis responded that he was, and “The rest of the class understood. I don’t even teach the student of this Sara Taylor person,” he wrote.

    In October, Francis filed to challenge state Rep. Elmer Floyd of Fayetteville in the Democratic primary. He called for a “revolution” in the education system to give power back to teachers. He also said he wanted affordable health care for all and believed in homeless rights, voting rights, a higher minimum wage and supporting women and gay rights.

    He dropped out of the primary race in December.

    People reacting on social media were angered that Francis would use such a demonstration in a military community.

    “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 flag draped over it,” Taylor wrote on her Facebook post.

    The conservative think tank Civitas Institute of Raleigh called Francis’ action “especially offensive to those in Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces.

    “Freedom of speech is one of the bedrock foundations guaranteed in our Constitution,” Civitas President Francis De Luca, a retired Marine colonel. “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.”

    Till said he believed there are better ways to teach students about freedom of speech and First Amendment rights than what apparently happened in this classroom.

    “There are multiple examples of people doing something like that and being protected,” Till said. “There are a lot of examples in archives we could use that were appropriate.”
  2. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    And what do YOU think about the whole thing?

    Robin Hickman
    "Your Friendly Neighborhood Flag Man"
    Eugene, Oregon, USA.
  3. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    There's no question that the teacher's action was protected under the First Amendment. (I liked the way he referred to "The First Amendment and the Bill of Rights", which of course are the same thing.) The question is whether or not it was an appropriate thing for a teacher to do in a classroom. It seems to me he could have achieved the same goal by holding a flag in his hand and saying "Supposing that I threw this on the floor and stomped on it -- what would you think about that?" or something similar. I'd put it in the same category as walking down a dark alley in Manhattan -- you have a right to do it, but that doesn't mean it's a sensible thing to do.
  4. I am not in a position to make a judgement on him. It is their community who ultimately will decide his fate.

    The DA says he won't charge him because of outcomes in other cases. (Texas vs. Johnson, 1984 Republican convention flag-burning incident).

    The NC Statute is fairly clear that the "casting of contempt" is needed to make it illegal. I don't think it was an act of contempt.

    As of today, there is no mention of having a hearing and the imposition of a 10-day unpaid suspension.

    Was he teaching method wise? IMO, only if you are ready to accept the consequences.
  5. 10 day suspension upheld by School Board.

    FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - A North Carolina school board has upheld the 10-day suspension of a high school teacher who stepped on the American flag during a First Amendment lesson.

    The Cumberland County Board of Education voted 5-2 Wednesday to support Superintendent Frank Till's decision. Board members considered Lee Francis' appeal for more than eight hours behind closed doors.

    Whether Lee returns to his job teaching history at Massey Hill Classical High School rests with Till.

    Lee has been working in the district office since Till recommended the unpaid suspension in September.

    He says he was teaching about a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that flag desecration is protected speech. Francis says he stepped on the flag several times with his right foot.

    One of two students who left the classroom took the flag.

    A Cumberland County teacher suspended for stepping on the American flag in class resigned after the superintendent recommended the teacher’s contract not be renewed.

    Lee Francis was teaching at Massey Hill Classical High School when he was photographed last year stepping on the American flag during a lesson about the First Amendment.

    The photo of Francis standing on the flag picture spread widely on social media, resulted in a large backlash against Francis. He said he and his family have even received death threats.

    Francis was initially suspended for 10 days without pay after the incident. His appeal was denied by the school board only to have Francis then assigned to warehouse duty in November.

    Cumberland County Superintendent Frank Till recommended Francis’ contract not be renewed for the 2017-18 school year. Till said stepping on the American flag is not in the curriculum.

    Francis resigned on March 21, school system officials confirmed to CBS North Carolina.
  7. Notinumi8

    Notinumi8 New Member

    I have to say there's no question that the teacher's action was protected under the First Amendment.
  8. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    Protected, yes, and gratefully so. But, still... uncouth!

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