- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A North Carolina history teacher says he “absolutely” sees the irony in being disciplined after he stomped on the American flag during a lesson on the First Amendment.

Lee Francis, a first-year teacher at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, the home of Fort Bragg, made headlines Tuesday after a parent’s Facebook post about his free speech demonstration went viral.

Mr. Francis said he was teaching the class about the First Amendment, specifically the Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson that invalidated laws prohibiting desecration of the U.S. flag.

“It was just a couple of taps to make the point that the case that Texas v. Johnson said it was OK,” Mr. Francis told the New York Post. “It was really a simple demonstration to show what my First Amendment rights entail, that as an American, this is something I have a right to do.”

He said he was shocked when two students decided to walk out of the class, with one grabbing the flag beneath the teacher’s foot as he exited, the Post reported.

“This is an honors course at a university prep school,” Mr. Francis said. “I expected the maturity level to be as such. By no means did I set out to offend anyone or take away anyone’s service or time in the military. All I did was explain the rights that each and every one of us has as an American.”

Mr. Francis said he’s since been placed on paid leave and was forced to file a report with the Fayetteville Police Department after receiving countless death threats. He said he’s hired an attorney and plans to meet with Cumberland County Schools officials on Thursday, the Post reported.

Cumberland County Schools spokesperson Pete Horne confirmed an “active investigation” into the matter, but declined further comment to the Post.

Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till said in a statement that there are better ways to teach free speech rights “without desecrating the flag.”

Mr. Francis, who said he has relatives in the military, agrees with him.

“I think he’s right, absolutely there could be other ways to teach the subject. But in the same vein the way that I taught, it can’t necessarily be wrong,” he told a local NBC News affiliate.

“I believe there’s some people who actually understand I meant no disrespect, but you have to think about this community,” he told the Post. “It’s a military school and almost half of them come from military families. So do you appease them or do you bite the bullet? I would love to keep my job.”

But Mr. Francis said he “absolutely” sees the irony of potentially losing his job for demonstrating free speech.

“Being in a military town, I’m labeled as un-American, but what I was doing was protected by the highest court of our land,” he told the Post. “As an American citizen, this is something I have a right to do.”

In an interview with Fox News’ Todd Starnes, Mr. Francis said he stands by his actions.

“Do I regret what I did? Absolutely not,” he said. “Would I do it again? All I can say is I did it and I stand by it.”

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