Teacher stomps U.S. flag to make a point about role of symbols. Should it cost him his job?

A teacher took a flag down and stomped it in class to make a point about the role of symbols. He may lose his job as a result. (AP Images.)

A teacher took a flag down and stomped it in class to make a point about the role of symbols. He may lose his job as a result. (AP Images.)

If this teacher was aiming to make a vivid and lasting impression, he did.

But he may well lose his job as a result.

In December, Scott Compton, an honors English teacher at Chapin High in Chapin, South Carolina, was trying to teach his students that America “is greater that the material objects that represent it,” according to his attorney Darryl Smalls.

Compton sought to generate discussion “using a powerful symbol with which all his students would be familiar,” Smalls told the Columbia State newspaper. “He made only positive comments about America throughout the lesson.”

But the Lexington-Richland district spokesman Mark Bounds told the paper,  “The actions that occurred are unprofessional and not consistent with the standards of our district.”

After a parent complained about the teacher removing the flag off the wall and stepping on it, Compton was suspended with pay. He taught at the school for seven years.

A story on AJC.com reports that the decision should come today:

Superintendent Stephen Hefner didn’t find a problem with the ninth and 10th grade English teacher’s lesson on how ideas should be greater than symbols, but instead was appalled with the bad judgment Compton used in defacing a U.S. flag to make his point, district spokesman Mark Bounds said.

“I was in the military 20 years. I will defend your right to burn an American flag in the public square to my death. But as a teacher, you cannot bring your personal biases into the classroom,” Bounds said.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

70 comments Add your comment

SBinF

January 14th, 2013
6:18 pm

Probably not the best judgment, but I wonder how his 1st amendment rights factor into this? Any attorneys on the board care to take a stab?

Seems like he could get lawyered up and win a fat payout from the school system.

Lee

January 14th, 2013
6:39 pm

Perhaps they could get one of the “Wounded Warriors” to come in and tell the kids what that “symbol” means to them. And then ask the students if they thought it was appropriate for the teacher to stomp on that mere “symbol”.

Georgia

January 14th, 2013
6:41 pm

No, NO!! This teacher does not realize that we have a teacher exchange program with communist China, and they are teaching our kids their history, and stomping on flags is something that they would never do, because it’s too obvious. However, they are spinning the Korean War as the aggression of the USA and their allies. By stomping on our flag, then that teacher is reinforcing the Chinese spin of world history. Just like the Japanese themselves have only recently admitted any war crimes, when their entire prosecution of the war was a GD war crime. We will have our children lined up against us if we let the teachers say whatever they want. Fire this teacher. And monitor more closely the Chinese teacher exchange program. (sixty minutes report…or maybe it was dateline or nightline, or who cares, I saw it on network news so it must be true, right? Oh brother. There’s no link that can be trusted now. We are sitting ducks for what coming, folks).

Ella Smith

January 14th, 2013
6:46 pm

As an educator I believe in the individual rights. However, as educators we still are under such strict ethical rules I cannot imagine any educator thinking it would be acceptable to stomp on the US Flag or any flag for that matter.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

January 14th, 2013
7:00 pm

It does not sound as though his actions were personal bias. It sounds as though he was trying to illustrate the point of his lesson about how ideas are greater than symbols. Unfortunately, his lesson apparently went over the heads of most folks, including the Superintendent. I guess if anything he is guilty of giving his audience too much credit.

Roy Jackson

January 14th, 2013
7:00 pm

I work in a public school and am equally offended that Jesus and Christianity enter the building daily. Staff meetings and celebrations always have prayer that involves Jesus. This never raises an eyebrow and no one seems to even consider how inappropriate it is in a public school so I say if christianity has a place then free speech and stepping on flags is ok.

weathervane

January 14th, 2013
7:16 pm

In these days of extreme “political correctness” it will probably cost the teacher his job.

bootney farnsworth

January 14th, 2013
7:30 pm

I don’t give a damn what his reasons are – toss his ass out, and make sure any potential employers know why.

partly due to his actions and partly due to his rank stupidity.

oldtimer

January 14th, 2013
7:31 pm

bad judgement…..but I will say…a firing offense….I think of all the people that defended that symbol….silly as some see it…like my dad..Battle of the Bulge.

GFJacket

January 14th, 2013
7:32 pm

For those defending the teacher, would you view be different if the “symbol” were a picture of Obama? A picture of Reagan? What about the Koran? The Bible? What about a Nazi Flag? What about a UN Flag? What about a UGA flag?
I think the teacher learned a lesson. Defacing the symbol of others does not get your point across. It only makes them angry and causes them to move their focus from what you wanted.

bootney farnsworth

January 14th, 2013
7:32 pm

I get he has first amendment rights to do this is he wishes. pity my first amendment rights don’t allow me to paddle his stupid ass until it bleeds.

ClydeFr0g

January 14th, 2013
7:48 pm

I fully support the teacher’s First Amendment rights, and I fully support everyone having the right to burn the flag, stomp on the flag, or use it as toilet paper if they so choose.

I also support the right of the Superintendent to fire this moron.

Funny thing about this idiot…I would bet dollars to donuts he wouldn’t have dared do that with a flag of Mexico, China, Korea, Germany, or any other country, especially if he had students in his class from those countries.

APOLOGIES4

January 14th, 2013
7:59 pm

Symbols are just that–symbolizes one thing that represents a person, place or thing.. I can burn a Bible or destroy a cross as they are mere symbols because my God is in my heart; He is neither in a book nor in a suymbolic cross or star of David. Disrespectful actions is how I would state the actions of this eduactor and probably over-zealous in order for his students to see his perspective. I do not believe his job should be in jeopardy but probably a letter which would reflect remorse and admittance of making a poor choice seems to be approriate and it should be addresed to the families, faculty, staff, community and Board. Who amongst us does not make poor choices? Yes, some are worse than others, but it is how we grow and how other can learn from the action. I wish this teacher good will.

indigo

January 14th, 2013
8:03 pm

bootney – 7:30

100% correct!!!!

Prof

January 14th, 2013
8:06 pm

Maureen: no.

Old Physics Teacher

January 14th, 2013
8:10 pm

A) an English teacher… AN ENGLISH TEACHER??? I’m a science teacher so I don’t know the English curriculum in use here in Georgia but symbols of our nation, 1st Amendment rights, etc, belong in the “Social Sciences” not the language department. The lesson should never have been done – period.

B) Rookie teachers should have to do complete, detailed lesson plans and get them approved by his/her department chair

Conclusion: I’m afraid the guy has to go. This was a no-brainer for the deep south. I don’t think his career needs to be ruined (let him start over somewhere else that needs new “blood”- maybe in a smaller community), but his department chair, and the assistant principal over the Languages Department should bare some part of the responsibility for this stupidity.

janet

January 14th, 2013
8:11 pm

Poor judgement… maybe, but I don’t think he should be fired. That’s crazy. He was probably just trying to provoke thought and discussion thru emotion. Kids need to be taught that you can’t always control what others do, but you can always control your reaction to it.

Maureen Downey

January 14th, 2013
8:15 pm

@Old: Here is how the Associated Press explains what he was trying to do:

A South Carolina high school teacher who talked glowingly about the U.S. and the importance of embracing freedom while stomping on an American flag in his classroom is still deciding whether to appeal a superintendent’s recommendation that he be fired.

Lexington-Richland District 5’s school board received an update Monday behind closed doors about Scott Compton’s lesson at Chapin High School, but didn’t take any action because Compton has until the end of next week to ask board members to consider his appeal, district spokesman Mark Bounds said.

Neither Compton nor his attorney was at the school board meeting.

Superintendent Stephen Hefner didn’t find a problem with the ninth and 10th grade English teacher’s lesson on how ideas should be greater than symbols, but instead was appalled with the bad judgment Compton used in defacing a U.S. flag to make his point, Bounds said.

“I was in the military 20 years. I will defend your right to burn an American flag in the public square to my death. But as a teacher, you cannot bring your personal biases into the classroom,” Bounds said.

Proud Teacher

January 14th, 2013
8:45 pm

Good grief! Has he lost his mind? He should be removed from that school. He made a gross error in judgment. He needs to mature.

Georgia

January 14th, 2013
9:10 pm

Maybe we have to keep God out of our schools, to respect the different gods that the hoards of pagans who have overrun us worship. That’s cool. I guess. I don’t want to start another crusade. But our Flag is not a religious object. It’s our dearly-won flag. Now, we have to tolerate extreme interpretations of our constitution because to deny anyone a certain expression is to deny everyone. Fine. But to purposefully tramp on our flag as collateral damage of the new normal we’ve created which exiled Jesus from publically funded forums in the interests of peaceful interaction with other cultures and religions, is going too far. Fire this misguided person. I mean, who would do this? Yes, our country is bigger than our flag, but who would do this? Fire this teacher, If not for the sensiblities of our children, then for our shared disgust.

Prof

January 14th, 2013
9:14 pm

Just as a reminder about citizens’ First Amendment rights:

Supreme Court Strikes Down All Laws Banning Flag Desecration (1989): Outside the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Gregory Lee Johnson burned a flag in protest against President Ronald Reagan’s policies. He was arrested under Texas’ flag desecration statute. In its 5-4 ruling in Texas v. Johnson, the Supreme Court struck down flag desecration laws in 48 states by ruling that flag desecration is a constitutionally protected form of free speech.

This teacher was illustrating the nature of a symbol (a material object used to represent something invisible), which the flag is. Our Constitution allows him the right to do this.

teacher / veteran / patriot

January 14th, 2013
9:17 pm

It is disappointing to see how many citizens do not understand the important lesson this teacher was teaching. As a veteran, I did not proudly serve to save a piece of cloth – but rather the country it represents – the best government in the history of mankind. Reading most of these posts, criticizing this teacher, wanting him fired, wishing to “paddle his stupid ass” – sounds just like those who riot and kill when a cartoon of their prophet, Mohammad is published or when their holy book, the Koran, is burned, even accidentally by U.S. soldiers cleaning out a prison cell.

Wilbur

January 14th, 2013
9:30 pm

Heck yeah he ought to lose his job.
The only reason that this is being discussed is that he stomped on one of the “right” symbols and the libs will defend his “rights” to stomp on the flag. If it were a liberal icon or a protected religion, then they would be screaming for his blood.

B. Killebrew

January 14th, 2013
9:41 pm

Hear, hear–to Prof and teacher/ veteran / patriot.

Good to finally see some common sense in these comments.

SPARKY

January 14th, 2013
9:49 pm

Catnip for the right wingers here. Page views for Maureen. Win-win

Maureen Downey

January 14th, 2013
9:54 pm

@Sparky, I have posted three entries today — this one is the least likely of the trio to draw page views. Just thought it was an interesting story.
Maureen

Mikey D.

January 14th, 2013
9:55 pm

Thank you teacher/veteran/patriot for bringing some reason and sensibility to the discussion. The point that the teacher was making was actually a very profound point illustrating the greatness of America. Too bad that lesson was swallowed up and spit out by the unbounding ignorance of the deep south.

Mary Elizabeth

January 14th, 2013
9:59 pm

I agree with the comments of “Prof” at 9:14 pm.

Also, I do not think, from evidence given in the above article and in Maureen’s 8:15 pm comments, that the teacher necessarily had “personal biases” against the American flag, as was stated by Superintendent Hefner.

According to the S.C. newpaper, The State, which was linked in the article above, “Compton sought to generate discussion “using a powerful symbol with which all his students would be familiar,” Smalls (the teacher’s lawyer) said. “He made only positive comments about America throughout the lesson.”

Also, in the AJC link in the article above, the teacher’s lawyer said the following: ” ‘He meant no intentional disrespect to those men and women who served our country or to America itself,’ Smalls wrote.”

Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2013/01/10/2583741/teacher-faces-firing-for-stomping.html#.UPSIxfKDRGo#storylink=cpy

Private Citizen

January 14th, 2013
10:11 pm

i think anyone should be able to make a mistake. Whatever happened to “three strikes, you’re out.” Aaron Swartz just hung himself because of the justice dept. planning on a 30 year prison sentence because Aaron tapped into MIT to download and free some pay documents from J-Stor.

I don’t want to live in a police state and I think the U. S. has a weird fetish for the heavy hand and punishing people for non-violent “crimes.” It is juvenile, this pre-occupation with authority. It is dysfunctional and an indicator of institutional narcissism. Let the person teach their classes, let them do their work. Because someone needs mentoring or direction is not a reason to fire them. Oh, someone is “offended?” Well, what else is new.

And if anyone is concerned about honoring the flag, when was the last time YOU burned a flag that touched the ground, or even removed one during the rain, or even replaced some worn raggedy flag on a public building, much less with one Made in the USA? I know proper flag protocol. No one else is following it any more than this spirited teacher.

Private Citizen

January 14th, 2013
10:19 pm

Here’s a petition concerning another teacher who has been removed from service for a documentary film she played for her class. http://www.change.org/petitions/lomas-hill-school-officials-publicly-apologize-to-cecilia-hernandez-for-unfair-dismissal-after-showing-milk

There's a sickness in GA

January 14th, 2013
10:28 pm

Remember the Golden Calf. “Thou shall not have any other gods before me” I swear, some people take their love of the flag too far…it’s not an idol people, It’s just a piece of cloth.

No debasement of that cloth can ever destroy ideas that it symbolizes. No one has ever dies for the “flag,” they have died for their commrads in arms, their families, theirloved ones, their neighbors. Every time I see someone say “so and so died for our flag” I just have to role my eyes.

This story is too funny. Teacher tries to prove a point that ideas are more powerful than symbols and he is going to probably lose his job due to the fact that, for the Superintendant, symbols are more important than ideals.

I guess he is going to make his point though, just not the way he expected to. An

Private Citizen

January 14th, 2013
10:34 pm

Here’s the film (pt. 1) the lady got fired for. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xusmcc_milk-2008-1_lifestyle It’s ranked 94% at Rotten Tomatoes.

December 2, 2008,[41] the film received 4 nominations for the 24th Independent Spirit Awards and won 2, including Best Supporting Male (James Franco) and Best First Screenplay (Dustin Lance Black).[42]
December 9, 2008, the film received eight Critic’s Choice Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.
December 11, 2008, Sean Penn received one Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor, the film’s only nomination.
December 18, 2008, the Screen Actors Guild nominated Milk in three categories: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Cast in a Motion Picture for the 15th Screen Actors Guild Awards; Sean Penn was chosen as Best Actor.
January 5, 2009, the film’s producers received a nomination for Producer of the Year for the 20th Producers Guild of America Awards.
January 8, 2009, Gus Van Sant received a nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement for the 61st Directors Guild of America Awards.
The film won Best Original Screenplay at the 62nd Writers Guild of America Awards
The film received four BAFTA award nominations, including Best Film, for the 62nd British Academy Film Awards.
January 22, 2009 the film received 8 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and winning two, for Best Original Screenplay (Dustin Lance Black) and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Sean Penn).

Private Citizen

January 14th, 2013
10:40 pm

part 2: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xusmcl_milk-2008-2_lifestyle

for part three, just change the 2 to a 3 in the url. Congratulations, you are now a hacker.

Private Citizen

January 14th, 2013
10:42 pm

Private Citizen

January 14th, 2013
10:49 pm

Here’s a better film (1984) on the person, a real documentary with historical footage and without the mood music and re-enactments. If the lady was going to get fired, she should have shown this film instead! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9e1_L7AvgU Highly educational on the recent politics and history of San Francisco, excellent film about city politics and campaigns.

ClydeFr0g

January 14th, 2013
10:52 pm

Some of you have this way wrong. The teacher has the right to do this and not get ARRESTED. No one is arguing that. But an employer can fire you at any time for any reason with or without reason or cause (and you can quit the same way).

Go to work tomorrow and call your boss an a**hole. You have the right to free speech, he can’t get you arrested for calling him an a**hole. But he DOES have the right to fire you.

This teacher can burn as many flags as he pleases in the town square, in the street, at home, at his friends house, at a political rally, at a park, etc. But he does NOT have freedom of speech at work.

Additionally, this teacher most likely signed a “Code of Ethics” (much like most of us probably had to do when we were hired) in which it was agreed that he did not have freedom of speech rights at work.

Go ahead though if it makes you happy and contribute to his legal fund, but it’s a bad investment.

RJ

January 14th, 2013
11:26 pm

Did the teacher “stomp” or “step” on the flag?

Bruce Kendall

January 14th, 2013
11:33 pm

No, NO, and NO! I too am a 20 year veteran and I defend his right to make his point, which is true. My son and I have discussed the power of belief using the Creationist Museum in Kentucky, where Adam and Eve are found frolicking with dinosaurs. While I do not support this belief, I do support their right to believe. I believe in the possibilities of this country, but the flag is not our country. The people are our country, and it is against the law to stomp on someone.

Ray McIntyre

January 14th, 2013
11:53 pm

A flag is nothing more than a symbol. If, in discussing symbols and their power. a teacher defaces one, that is not a lynching affair nor yet is it a firing one. This is really nothing more than worship of an object (the flag) on the part of the school district.

Jen

January 15th, 2013
12:22 am

Agreeing with Mickey D. Thank you, teacher/veteran/patriot.

Private Citizen

January 15th, 2013
1:12 am

Clyde, But an employer can fire you at any time for any reason with or without reason or cause (and you can quit the same way).

Why would anyone want to invest in an employer that “can fire them at any time?” Teachers can not quit at any time, they sign a contract for a year and are expected to fulfil the terms of the contract. Sometimes this can be used to harass teachers because essentially they are captive during the term of the contract. If someone makes unreasonable demands of them or tells them so little “re-training” activities, they’re supposed to go along with it or else be charged with insubordination. It’s really a crazy set-up combined with no union labor protections re: do’s and don’ts for the bosses.

Private Citizen

January 15th, 2013
1:16 am

Clyde, This teacher can burn as many flags as he pleases in the town square, in the street, at home, at his friends house, at a political rally, Government schools teachers do not have the autonomy you describe, as they are expected to be model citizens at all times. With time so tight and controlled, I bet if you looked in a school staff parking area you would hardly even seen any bumper stickers on the cars. These are really restrictive times for teachers with this weird “treat the teacher as enemy” thing and the fire-breathing dragon with it’s need to ritualistically burn a few on the pyre. You know, that way everybody knows where they stand.

hb

January 15th, 2013
2:00 am

This display of intelligence was not sufficiently neutered as to gain acceptance or support from the majority of the public.

Mary Elizabeth

January 15th, 2013
2:07 am

@ Clyde Fr0g, 10:52 pm

“. . .an employer can fire you at any time for any reason with or without reason or cause (and you can quit the same way).”
================================================

Although the fact that “an employer can fire you at any time for any reason with or without reason or cause” may be true in some private enterprise jobs, in most government jobs, including those in teaching, there is this thing call “due process,” which must be followed before one can be fired.

Bobo

January 15th, 2013
3:02 am

While the school district may have the right to fire this guy and what he did is wholly disrespectful and unpopular, what good does it do to go through an expensive and lengthy firing process? I guarantee that the guy will never do it again. This could be an opportunity to show kids how to convey mercy and that even adults have to own up to mistakes. I am all for a lengthy punishment and required apology, but I think it would be hypocritical to take a hardline on this issue when schools routinely turn their heads and look the other way on numerous other ethical issues that they fail to address so miserably. He used really bad judgment, but in this case, he took an example WAY out of context and people seemed to be too stupid to understand that he wasn’t fundamentally protesting the USA. Since when is our country’s flag on par with Jesus Christ anyway? We are a finite nation in its death throes anyway. We don’t really represent the things we used to represent in the greatest generation or the constitution anymore. I’m afraid he may be more right about the flag being an empty symbol now than he ever intended to be.

Bobo

January 15th, 2013
3:06 am

Like a few of you have also said, I am sick of this agenda of fear that employers are doling out lately to guilt trip their employees into accepting the unacceptable by saying that ‘We have the right to fire you anytime for any reason’ or ‘Be grateful to have a job’. Well how about the COMPANY being grateful to have good employees that got them where they are? How stupid are organizations that think they can treat their employees with condescending attitudes and barely worth more than dog crap? Do they really think they are going to be competitive that way? Employees will run through a brick wall for an organization that treats them well, and they will passive aggressively destroy a business that disrespects them. The golden rule is there for a reason.

crankee-yankee

January 15th, 2013
5:28 am

I disagree with his method but I defend his 1st amendment right to do it. Our beliefs only stand up to scrutiny when they are stretched such as this.

Lee

January 15th, 2013
6:07 am

Interesting. I wonder how many of you so-called First Amendment supporters would act if this teacher included some of the non-politically correct aspects of MLK next week? You know, how MLK was funded by the communist party, how MLK attended the Frankfurt school (communist), of his beastiality toward women, or how the so-called “civil rights” have discriminated against millions of white people through affirmative action.

My guess, you Constitutional supporters would be wanting to burn this teacher at the stake…

drew (former teacher)

January 15th, 2013
6:25 am

Sounds like his lesson went over the heads of many of the “great americans” chiming in here. Here’s how it will play out…he’ll get fired…he’ll sue the school system…he’ll win the suit, be reinstated, and then collect a settlement and back pay, all courtesy of the taxpayers, and life will go on.

Nothing wrong with being a patriot, but sometimes they get a little too attached to their patriotic symbols. Come on you great americans…grow a pair! Oh yeah, I better end this with “I’m a retired veteran”. There…can’t touch me now.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

January 15th, 2013
6:35 am

“Interesting. I wonder how many of you so-called First Amendment supporters would act if this teacher included some of the non-politically correct aspects of MLK next week?”

Lee, I don’t know about others, but I never fear knowledge.