History teacher on leave after controversial lesson

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Teacher Lee Francis steps on American flag during lesson First Amendment_181015

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – A high school teacher has been placed on leave by school officials after his First Amendment lesson sparked outrage.

Lee Francis is a teacher at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He said he put an American flag on the ground and stepped on it. But, he said, it was in the context of a lesson on freedom of speech.

“I put it on the ground and I used my right foot and I took two steps on it, and immediately two kids get out of the room,” he said.

A number of residents denounced Francis’ actions, calling them unpatriotic, according to Media General affiliate WNCN-TV.

“I think it’s inappropriate to teach that in school,” Fayetteville resident Grayson Chavonne told WNCN. “If he wants to do that in his own home that’s his prerogative, but it doesn’t need to be taught to our kids.”

“Clearly, there are other ways to teach First Amendment rights without desecrating the flag,” said Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till said in a statement released Tuesday.

Dan Travieso, who is running for the North Carolina State Senate in District 21, called Francis’s lesson a direct insult to those who fought for our country and a “poor choice of judgment.”

“Just because I step on the flag doesn’t mean I step on their graves,” Francis said. “It doesn’t mean I step on their bodies as they return from overseas. It means I step on a piece of fabric.”

On Tuesday night, Francis confirmed to WNCN that he had been placed on paid administrative leave.

Francis said he’s been shocked by the backlash, both in-person and on social media, that his lesson has generated.

“We have a level of students that are mature and are expected to be mature,” he said. “So no, that was not the reaction I was expecting.”

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