When a photo of a North Carolina teacher stepping on the U.S. flag in front of his classroom recently emerged, however, many parents saw it as a sign that things had gone too far.
Despite that he’s now facing suspension — as WRAL reports — that teacher, Lee Francis, is not only standing behind his “lesson,” but is arguing that the student who snapped the now-infamous photo should be punished as well.
According to the teacher, it was all meant to be a harmless lesson on the First Amendment. Several students were infuriated by the display and walked out — but not before 16-year-old Alex Dunn took the photo of Francis.
The backlash was swift and has included Francis being suspended from the classroom. Superintendent Dr. Frank Till, Jr. noted that “there are other ways to teach First Amendment rights without desecrating a flag.”
Francis disagreed, calling his demonstration a “teachable method” that was “very productive.”
In an interview with Fox News contributor Todd Starnes, however, Francis also made it clear that he feels he shouldn’t be the only one facing punishment.
According to the teacher, student Alex Dunn “broke the law” by taking his picture in the classroom. As Francis argues:
“There were some laws broken as far as photos of me taken that violate the county’s policies – and issues that could be considered defamation of character…
I believe that child does need to be punished in some way — absolutely. I can’t take a picture of them and in turn they cannot do the same of me.”
For his part, Dunn, who has a father in the military, has said it was almost a knee-jerk reaction to take the photo:
“I didn’t want to believe that it was really happening.
But when he stepped on the flag –- I just thought about all these men and women who fought for that flag that he just walked on -– all these men and women who’ve come home with that flag draped over their coffin.”
Francis has been suspended for 90 days with pay. He may receive further disciplinary action as the school district’s investigation continues.
The local district attorney has noted that he will not be charging Francis with any crime, explaining that — though flag desecration is a misdemeanor in North Carolina — a Supreme Court ruling that protects such a demonstration overrides state law.
It is still unclear whether the 16-year-old will face any official consequences for taking the photo.