A North Carolina high school history teacher has been suspended with pay after a photo emerged of him stomping on the American flag during a history lesson.
The teacher involved in the incident is Lee Francis, a first-year history teacher at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, which is near Fort Bragg and has a large military and patriotic community.
He admitted on Monday to stomping on the American flag as a part of a lesson on the First Amendment. He told USA Today that he grabbed the flag out of the closet to explain the court case Texas v. Johnson, where the Supreme Court ruled that flag burning is protected under the law.
“I laid the flag on the ground and with my right foot I took a couple of taps,” he said. “I didn’t jump on it or do cartwheels, but I did put my foot on it to give them a visual representation … Freedom of speech is this symbolic gesture that says you can desecrate the flag as an American citizen.”
Several news media outlets said that he asked if any students had lighters or scissors, but when no one said they had any, he placed the flag on the floor and stomped on it.
One of the students, Alex Dunn, who’s father is in the Army, sent a photo of the incident, ABC 11 reported.
“Why would an American want to do that to the flag?” Dunn said. “Why would a social studies teacher want to disrespect the flag like that?”
He then said that he picked up the flag and walked out of the class with another student following suit.
“Clearly, there are other ways to teach First Amendment rights without desecrating the flag,” Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till said in a statement, WNCN-TV reported.
Several parents and others were outraged by the teachers action and have called for him to be fired.
“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,” a Facebook user identified as Sara Taylor wrote in a post.
Do I regret what I did? Absolutely not,” Francis told Fox News. “Would I do it again? All I can say is I did it and I stand by it.”
“This is exactly what America is about, Francis said. “This is exactly what freedom of speech is about – freedom of protest. You stand up for what you believe in. Whether or not I agree is not really the point.”