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Middle School Teacher Receives Death Threats After First Amendment Lesson

“It saddens me that people have taken such a negative turn”

The ongoing Colin Kaepernick saga has shown that Americans are much more focused on adherence to patriotic rituals than considering their actual meaning. People have become irate over his refusal to stand for the national anthem instead of saluting him for challenging us to live up to its ideals. This week, there’s been another example of Americans confusing patriotic symbols with their meanings after a teacher was suspended for his lesson on the First Amendment.

Lee Francis, a history teacher at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has received death threats for teaching his students about the Constitution. During his lesson on Texas v. Johnson—a Supreme Court case that upheld the right to burn the American flag—he jokingly asked his students for a lighter, and when no one responded, he dramatically dropped the flag on the ground 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 said. “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’ demonstration was an attempt to show that our freedom of speech is so vast, it even protects us when we protest our own government. Unfortunately, the school parents were so deeply offended by his actions that he’s been suspended without pay pending an investigation.

After the story hit the news and social media, Francis has received hundreds of hateful responses, has been called ethnic slurs, and even received death threats—all in the name of teaching his students about freedom. “Ironically enough, I feel like I was being a good American citizen by telling the students about the rights granted to them by the highest court in the country,” Francis told The Washington Post on Wednesday. “It saddens me that people have taken such a negative turn.”

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