pubpenNo doubt history teacher Lee Francis used poor judgment when he stomped on Old Glory in front of 29 Massey Hill Classical High School students to demonstrate how the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protects our right to freedom of expression. Not a smart idea. However, we are a forgiving community with a competent school board with many trained, experienced, forward-thinking administrators quite capable of handling such bazaar behavior. For this, we are thankful, though sometimes I feel these dedicated educational leaders go mostly unappreciated. Unfortunately, this situation initially could have been dismissed as “poor judgment” and settled with a simple and humble apology from Mr. Francis. Instead, the incident escalated into a nationwide embarrassment for our community while possibly exposing hidden agendas that can only be described as calculated and self-serving. After all, one of the very first things Francis did was lawyer up and start sounding off to the media. Not necessarily the heartfelt behavior of someone who is repentant or desires to educate and teach children about American history or our inherent First Amendement rights. 

To his credit, Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till Jr. is recommending to the Board of Education a 10-day suspension without pay. However, Francis says he’s not going back to the classroom, nor does he want to teach in Cumberland County. Oh, well! See ya later, Gator! And, good riddance. Such behavior is not acceptable and cannot be justified under any circumstance. 

Children need to be aware of and taught their constitutional rights. To this, I agree. Matter of fact, if emphasizing and demonstrating free speech and the right to freedom of expression were the major objectives of this class, then all Francis had to do was turn on the TV to Fox News or MSNBC and let the students watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump go at each other with their disgraceful and never-ending barrage of accusations and insults. This would demonstrate that the First Amendment protects this kind of behavior. They could witness up close and personal the kind of behavior that is protected by our Constitution. A clever teacher could even mix in a character education lesson with an emphasis on honor, honesty, truthfulness, caring, trustworthiness, fairness, responsibility and, most of all, respect. You remember, the same character traits that are being taught to our children in K – 6 grades. 

My point is this, we have too many Lee Francises in America. Our country needs to get back to teaching and practicing the basics of civility. We need to teach by example. We need to be good role models for our young people. We are the ones responsible for setting the example for future generations. America needs to pay attention because we are losing our morality. This 2016 presidential election has demonstrated effectively that our nation has reached an all-time high in new lows. It is to this that Americans should all “take a knee.” 

Lee Francis, is just an example of where we are now. The bright side of this unfortunate incident is that several students immediately got up and left the room in disgust taking the flag with them – a good sign that there is s

 hope for America. 

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