A history teacher says his lesson on free speech came with the unintended caveat that free speech isn't always guaranteed after it landed him a suspension. Students at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, NC, say Lee Francis was discussing a court case that determined flag desecration was protected by the First Amendment when he asked for a lighter or scissors. When no student obliged, students say he put an American flag on the ground and stomped on it, prompting two students to walk out of class, per WRAL. Francis—who some parents in the military community want fired, per WTVD—has been placed on administrative leave until he meets with the Cumberland County Schools superintendent on Thursday.
"Clearly there are other ways to teach First Amendment rights without desecrating the flag," the superintendent says. But Francis defends the move. "It's really disconcerting," he tells the Fayetteville Observer of the reaction. "My question to everyone is who is entitled to freedom of speech?" Though "trampling" on the American flag is illegal in North Carolina, "the very freedoms and principles that the American flag represents include the freedom to stomp on the flag," says a rep for the American Civil Liberties Union. "The Constitution gives people the right to free speech and expression, no matter how much others may disagree or be uncomfortable with the message. And that is certainly a lesson worth teaching." (An Illinois teacher was fired for the same thing.)