FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The students in teacher Lee Francis' history class likely will never forget the lesson he taught on free speech. Just not in the way he probably expected.
Francis, a teacher at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, was giving a lesson Monday on the First Amendment. His method? First, he tried to burn the American flag. Then he tried to cut it. Then he placed it on the floor and stepped on it.
"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.
Outrage and outcome
A picture of Francis standing on the flag was shared widely. In a community closely aligned with nearby Fort Bragg, outraged parents now want him fired. He's been suspended pending an investigation.
Francis will meet with Frank Till Jr., superintendent of Cumberland County Schools, about his job later this week.
In a statement, Till said, "Clearly there are other ways to teach First Amendment rights without desecrating a flag."
Francis, who says 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," Francis told WRAL.