Back in September, teacher Lee Francis found himself in some hot water when he used the American flag in a “lesson” about free speech.
The history teacher at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina first cut the flag, then tried to burn it and eventually stomped on it. CNN originally reported on the story.
“I put the flag on the ground, and I took two steps with my right foot and I said, ‘This is an example of free speech,'” Francis told CNN affiliate WRAL. “Two students got up and left immediately with no word, no disruption at all … I assumed something had happened. One student came to where I was and took the flag from me.”
Francis said he wasn’t trying to offend students, just teach them the Supreme Court ruled such acts of free expression were protected.
With so many families with ties to the nearby Fort Bragg, the school was immediately overwhelmed with complaints from angry parents. Francis was eventually suspended without pay for 10 days. He was also ordered to serve out the rest of the school year in a “rubber room” which is the unofficial term for a place union teachers go to sit all day when they aren’t allowed back in the classroom but are still getting paid by the state.
It doesn’t seem like such a terrible fate considering that Francis’ actions were deemed untenable by the customers he is supposed to serve – his parents and students. Any employee who fails to meet the expectations of his employers should be disciplined or corrected in some manner. In the private sector Francis could have been fired for his disregard of customers he serves. However, as a union member he is still entitled to a paycheck even if he doesn’t go to work anymore. Not a bad gig.
Now Francis is making a public plea for help in making up for his unpaid leave and legal expenses. The disgraced teacher has set up a GoFundMe account originally capped at $1400, but recently raised to $40,000 after lawyers informed him of the cost of his representation.
In 8 days the account has raised a little over $11,000 from 316 people.
Francis claims he was just teaching a lesson in free speech. However, he understood that he was teaching the sons and daughters of those serving the flag and moved forward with the demonstration anyway. That could be called nothing but provocative.
I know about slavery, but I’ve never needed a teacher to bring an actual slave to class to understand the concept. I know about the Holocaust but I’ve never had a teacher build a gas chamber in the classroom to bring home the point. I’ve known since I was a child that the desecration of the flag falls under our “free speech” rights and I’ve never needed a teacher to burn a flag in front of me to prove the point.
A good teacher can make the point without engaging in the activity. Francis was deliberate in his offense, claiming that he was trying to make a point. I get that. However, if you tell the customers at your restaurant that the food there is terrible you can fired from your job. Yes, you were just speaking freely but you also were denigrating the person who cuts your checks. It seems Francis has also unwittingly taught another lesson about our right to free speech:
Free speech often has consequences and as long as those consequences are legal you have no inherent right to be protected from them.