Fayetteville teacher who stomped flag says he's been suspended without pay

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Friday, September 23, 2016
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Lee Francis said he has been suspended 10 days without pay.

FAYETTEVILLE (WTVD) -- Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Dr. Frank Till said in a statement Friday that Massey Hill Classical High School teacher Lee Francis, who stomped on a U.S. flag in class will face disciplinary action.

Till did not specify the punishment in his statement, but Francis told ABC11's Greg Barnes that he has been suspended without pay for 10 days

Till's full statement:

"In a first period class at Massey Hill Classical High School on Monday, September 19, Mr. Lee Francis taught a lesson on the First Amendment by stepping on an American Flag. As I have already stated, this was inappropriate in our schools. I have conducted an investigation that focused on three areas: (1) the actual event; (2) the legalities; and (3) the events after Sept. 19.Regarding the legal aspect, many quote Texas v. Johnson where the First Amendment protection explained in this case does not extend to a teacher in the performance of his or her duties in a public classroom. Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West has determined that there was no criminal violation. Although there is no action that falls under the jurisdiction of Mr. West, it is a wrong conclusion to draw that it protects his actions in the classroom. As former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said, "Freedom of speech does not allow you to yell 'fire' in a crowded theater."There are policies and procedures that impact the teaching in our schools. After reading statements from staff and students at Massey Hill Classical High School and other material that was available to me, I have concluded that the actions of Mr. Francis were not an act of civil disobedience by the school or the Cumberland County Central Services. All agree that his actions were inappropriate. Therefore, I have determined discipline is appropriate based on violating our policies.The most hurtful aspect of this incident is the comments made by Mr. Francis during his interviews with reporters and media. Although I disagree with many of his statements and wish he had remained silent, there was nothing said that violated school policy.I will have no further public statement."

Some students and parents at Massey Hill Classical were outraged after Francis, a civics teacher reportedly stomped on a U.S. flag as part of a lecture.


ABC11 eyewitness Alex Dunn sent in a photo of his teacher, Francis, standing on the flag during class. Dunn's father is in the Army.

On Tuesday evening, Francis was placed on administrative leave.

In an exclusive interview with ABC11, Dunn said students were shocked when it happened. He picked up the flag during class and walked out. At least one other student followed him.

"Why would an American want to do that to the flag? Why would a social studies teacher want to disrespect the flag like that?" Dunn said.


On Wednesday, Francis told ABC11 he was just trying to teach his students about their First Amendment rights when he stomped on an American flag in his history class.

"I have the utmost respect for our men and women in the military," Francis told ABC11. "I have the utmost respect for the symbols that makes this country great. I also have respect for the laws and rights and privileges that people need to know they have."

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