Teacher disciplined after stepping on flag in Fayetteville classroom
Posted September 23
Fayetteville, N.C. — The Fayetteville teacher who stepped on an American flag to teach a lesson about the First Amendment will face discipline, Cumberland County Superintendent Dr. Frank Till said Friday. Till did not say what that discipline would be, but the Fayetteville Observer reported that Lee Francis was suspended for 10 days without pay.
Till met with history teacher Lee Francis Thursday and reviewed statements from students and staff before coming to his conclusion.
"I have concluded that the actions of Mr. Francis were not an act of civil disobedience by the school or the Cumberland County Central Services. All agree that his actions were inappropriate. Therefore, I have determined discipline is appropriate based on violating our policies," Till said.
Francis, in an interview after his meeting with Till, stood by his lesson plan.
"This was a teachable method that I utilized in my classroom," he said.
Francis stepped on an American flag to demonstrate to his students that desecration of the flag, while an uncomfortable sight for many, is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.
"What I was trying to convey to my students is (that) freedom of speech is more than something that's verbal, it's more than something that can be written down. Freedom of speech also includes the burning of the flag," Francis said.
Francis was suspended from the classroom after school officials learned of the lesson.
Francis, who grew up in Cumberland County, hopes to soon be back doing what he loves in his hometown: teaching.
The Cumberland County district attorney is not charging Francis with any crime. While flag desecration is a misdemeanor in North Carolina, the district attorney said a Supreme Court decision -- the very one Francis was teaching his class about -- overrides state law.