- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

DENVER — Colorado school districts that prevent students from displaying the American flag risk losing their accreditation under legislation passed by the state Senate yesterday.

Lawmakers, responding to two principals barring students from displaying U.S. flags in the wake of nationwide immigration bill protests, added the penalty to a $4.8 billion school-finance legislation that is expected to clear the House as early as today.

“We live in the United States, and anyone who wants to display the flag appropriately should be allowed to,” said Eric Golgart, whose daughter was suspended from Shaw Heights Middle School for wearing a flag T-shirt.

“If anything, I think [the amendment] is a little lighthearted. I think any administrator who approves the ban should be kicked out of that school.”

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens said he will sign the measure. The Republican was instrumental in getting legislators to include the penalty after an earlier version that called for funds to be withheld was dropped so as not to punish students for the mistakes of administrators.

State Rep. Jack Pommer, who sponsored the overall school-funding bill, called the penalty measure an excuse for patriotic grandstanding.

“This bill provides money for kindergarten, preschool and special education. If we have to put something in there that duplicates state law, so be it,” said Mr. Pommer, a Democrat. “This is just fodder for a bunch of phony patriots to get some publicity.”

The new flag amendment says school districts risk losing their accreditation if they violate state law that forbids restrictions on the right to “display reasonably” the U.S. flag “anywhere on an individual’s personal or real property.”

Mr. Pommer defended the principals who instituted the flag bans, saying they were taking reasonable steps to keep the peace after local immigration rallies heightened tensions among students.

“You had kids beating each other with flags and a principal put a stop to it, and some people saw it as an opportunity to get their names in the paper,” Mr. Pommer said. “The poor principal is just trying to maintain order.”

At Skyline High School, principal Tom Stumpf enacted a ban on American and Mexican flags after some students waved and threw them in other students’ faces.

Principal Myla Shepherd of Shaw Heights Middle School came under widespread criticism when she changed the dress code to bar camouflage and patriotic clothing after a group of students came to school in camouflage.

The bans were lifted April 7 after Colorado Attorney General John Suthers issued a statement saying that state law forbids schools from “a general ban on displaying the American flag.”

The original version of the amendment was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, a Republican.

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