Fayetteville teacher suspended for flag lesson on 1st amendment
Posted September 20
Updated September 21
Fayetteville, N.C. — A Cumberland County high school teacher has been suspended after he stepped on an American flag as part of a history lesson on Monday.
A photo posted on Facebook shows Lee Francis, a history teacher at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, standing over an American flag at the front of the class.
Students said Francis tried to burn and cut the flag before dropping it on the floor as part of a lesson on the First Amendment. At least two students walked out of the classroom during the demonstration.
"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 said. "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."
Francis has been suspended with pay in connection with the incident until he meets with Superintendent Dr. Frank Till on Thursday.
Francis, who has relatives in the military, said he did not intend to offend students, but wanted to drive home the Supreme Court's definition of free speech.
Melissa Ramos has a daughter at the school and a son who is stationed at Fort Bragg. She said she was furious about the demonstration and demanded that Francis be fired.
"Just personally, as a military family, to have someone do that, thank goodness she wasn't in that class because of her experiences having friends not come home," she said. "There are so many other ways that he could have taught that instead of trying to desecrate the flag that so many people in this country have fought so hard for.”
In a statement, Superintendent Dr. Frank Till Jr. said in a statement, "Clearly there are other ways to teach First Amendment rights without desecrating a flag. The situation is currently under investigation."
"I think he's right, absolutely there could be other ways to teach the subject, but in the same vein the way that I taught it can't necessarily be wrong," Francis said.
The Facebook post has gone viral with more than 10,000 shares.
The investigation is ongoing.