A high school teacher in Martinsville, Illinois was unanimously voted to be fired by the school board on May 15 for stepping on the American flag. As reported by Fox News and the Journal Gazette earlier in June, the incident occurred when he was teaching his English class on free speech. Jordan Parmenter used the small American flag on the corner of the room as a pointer. A student then told Parmenter that he felt using the flag as a pointer is disrespectful. Paramenter said he then dropped the flag on the floor and stepped on it to show an example of free speech as part of the lesson.
What I did was never intended as a show of disrespect to our country, to our veterans, or to anyone, nor would I ever do or say anything with that intention,” he told the paper. “I love my country and have nothing but the utmost respect for those who serve it.
“I have loved working for Martinsville and have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to help our students achieve success,” Parmenter said in his apology letter to the school. “I assure you that nothing of this nature will ever occur again.”
While this act may have been disrespectful, it was this teacher’s constitutional right however. It’s obvious this school board and community holds no regards for the constitution considering the Supreme Court has ruled that due to the First Amendment, it is unconstitutional for a government (whether federal, state, or municipality) to prohibit the desecration of a flag, due to its status as “symbolic speech.”
United States v. Eichman 496 U.S. 310 (1990) was a United States Supreme Court case that invalidated a federal law against flag desecration as violating free speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution. It was argued together with the case United States v. Haggerty. It built on the opinion handed down in the Court’s 1989 decision in Texas V. Johnson, which invalidated on First Amendment grounds a Texas state statute banning flag-burning.
If the Supreme Court protects free expression when burning the flag, clearly stepping on it would be protected the same. This teacher was giving a lesson to high school students in regards to free speech. Fired from his job in a unanimous decision, it is clear these students will learn a valuable lesson. They will learn that there is no protection for freedom of speech and expression. Is this the lesson we want children to learn? Conform to I Dream of Jeannie sociological views or lose your job and have your character disparaged by the community?
Featured image via of Wikimedia Commons