The taxpayer-funded high school teacher who stomped on a crumpled American flag in front of his class has decided to lead a protest march on Tuesday after school officials recommended that he be suspended him without pay for 10 days.
The teacher, Lee Francis, is employed at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
The first-year history teacher stomped all over a U.S. flag in front of his students sometime last week to demonstrate the freedom afforded by the First Amendment. A short time later, news of the incident went viral last week when Facebook user Sara Taylor posted — and later removed — a photo of Francis standing proudly over a rumpled-up flag. (RELATED: Public High School History Teacher STOMPS ON AMERICAN FLAG In Front Of Class)
Francis’s self-appointed protest march is scheduled for Tuesday.
The teacher has announced that participants in the march should clad themselves in black and convene at 9 a.m. across the street from the school.
“This is to show the community really does not stand only behind me, but they understand the larger issues in the area,” Francis reports The Fayetteville Observer. “We are marching for folks in Charlotte, for the death of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, for the LGBTQ community. We’re marching for the voices that aren’t heard.”
Francis assured the local newspaper that he has “really overwhelming” support for his flag-stomping prowess.
“I didn’t want to be in the national media and if people don’t want to see what I did for what it is, it’s unfortunate that they don’t want to know the truth,” the teacher added.
“We won’t be silent.”
Frank Till, the superintendent of the Cumberland County school district, initially placed Francis on unpaid leave when the flag-stomping became a local — and national — sensation.
Later, calling Francis’s actions “inappropriate,” Till recommended that Francis serve a 10-day, unpaid suspension.
The Cumberland County Board of Education must authorize the unpaid suspension. The board has not yet done so, pending a hearing.
Francis and his attorney, Allen Rogers, are likely to appeal the unpaid suspension.
Taylor, the Facebook user who reported Francis’s flag-stomping antics to the world, explained that the teacher “asked students if they had a lighter (they said no, they aren’t even allowed in school), then when there was no lighter he asked for scissors.”
“When there were no scissors he took the flag and stomped all over it. He is saying this was teaching First Amendment rights,” Taylor’s Facebook post narrates.
“Excuse me, THIS is part of their curriculum?!?!”
A pair of students took the venerated symbol of freedom with them when the class ended — presumably to protect it from Francis.
“That flag might not mean anything to that teacher, but it means a lot to us and it means a lot to” American families “who had their service member come home to them in a casket with that flagged draped over it.”
Fayetteville, the city where the public high school is located, borders Fort Bragg, America’s largest military base.
Francis reportedly took to Facebook himself last week to defend his method of describing the First Amendment. He declared that he was discussing Texas v. Johnson, a Supreme Court case involving a man — Johnson — who set an American flag on fire outside of venue of the 1984 Republican National Convention. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court held that burning a U.S. flag is symbolic speech protected under the Constitution.
A law on the books in North Carolina — General Statute 14-381 — currently makes it illegal “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,” the Observer notes.
Fayetteville district attorney Billy West indicated that he would not seek to prosecute Francis under the law — which, incidentally, seems facially unconstitutional under the standards set forth in Texas v. Johnson.