A high school teacher in rural central Illinois is under investigation and has been placed on administrative leave after he allegedly threw an American flag on the floor and stomped on it in front of a class full of flabbergasted students last week.
The scene of the flag-stomping kerfuffle was Martinsville Junior-Senior High School in Martinsville, Ill. (pop. 1,167), reports the Journal Gazette & Times-Courier, a local newspaper.
The unidentified, taxpayer-funded teacher’s motivations aren’t entirely clear, but students say he was using the American flag as a pointer. When a student suggested that this use of Old Glory could be viewed as disrespectful, the teacher got really mad, students say. He dropped the flag on the floor and intentionally stepped right on it.
Another student who spoke as if he was in the classroom added some detail.
“We can’t figure out why he actually went to the simulations of actually doing it,” Martinsville High senior Jonathan Smith told Tristatehomepage.com. “He talked about it being the right to do whatever he wants. That’s why it was there so he could do whatever he wants, but we have no idea why he would actually take it down and basically start all this.”
Word seems to have spread quickly about the flag stomping throughout the school and the town, and the teacher’s performance art didn’t go over well locally.
A group of community members has organized a demonstration in front of the Martinsville Junior-Senior High School building. The demonstrators are urging respect for the U.S. flag. They were also furious at the teacher’s actions.
“It’s just disgraceful,” Navy veteran Clifford Clouser told regional Fox affiliate WTHI-TV.
Clouser stood along with the school property line with other demonstrators. They proudly and carefully held U.S. flags.
Three generations of Clousers protested the action. Gina Gibson, Clouser’s daughter, noted that her son (Clouer’s grandson) and another student staged their own protest in the teacher’s classroom during the next period. They put their heads on their desks, refusing to look up.
The teacher was mad, the students said. He yelled at them, they claimed, and eventually ordered them to the office for their own act of free expression.
“This is a situation in which I am proud of our students,” a beaming Gibson told the Fox affiliate. “Our students are standing up for our nation.”
Clouser, the Navy vet, said he and others may continue to demonstrate throughout the week.
“On Monday morning,” school district superintendent Jill Rogers “placed the teacher on leave pending an investigation into the incident,” the statement explained in part. “The teacher will remain on leave for the remainder of the school year” and an investigation will occur, but the district is unlikely to act any further until a June school board meeting.
Almost certainly, the teacher’s leave is paid.
“The District recognizes that the community is upset about this situation and is seeking answers,” the statement also said. “The Board and the administration respect the community’s right to express their objection to this teacher’s behavior. We ask that any demonstration be done peacefully and off school grounds to avoid disruption to the end of the school year. For the safety and security of our students, we will ask any community member attempting to protest on school grounds to leave the property.”
School officials have also alleged that unidentified Facebook users have threatened the teacher. “We have notified the police of the threats,” the statement noted.
The Martinsville teacher is at least the second taxpayer-funded teacher in America in the last three years to decide it would be a good idea to step all over a U.S. flag in front of a bunch of red-blooded kids in one of the small, conservative towns dotting our national fruited plain.
In 2013, South Carolina honors English teacher Scott Compton lost his job because he threw an American flag on the floor and stomped on it in front of his students — in three different class periods. His goal, apparently, was to teach students that the flag is merely a symbol. (RELATED: South Carolina Teacher On Leave For Stomping On American Flag In Front Of Class)
Compton lost his job but received a whopping $85,000 settlement in addition to months of free money in the form of paid leave.