A South Carolina high school teacher has been suspended and could face possible termination after trampling the American flag during a lesson about symbols.
Scott Compton, an honors English teacher at Chapin High School in Chapin, was attempting to convey to his class that symbols can be mistreated without any consequences. Ironically, his lesson backfired and he could now lose his job.
According to WISTV, Michael Copeland overheard his teenage daughter discussing Compton's controversial lesson and asked for more details.
"He drew a couple symbols, like one of them was a cross, and he said, 'What does this represent,' and everybody said, 'Christianity,'" Copeland said. "Then he proceeds to take down the American flag, and said, 'This is a symbol, but it's only a piece of cloth. It doesn't mean anything,' and he throws it down on the floor and stomps on it."
"It's something I take great pride in," Copeland said of the flag. "It bothers me to see our flag and our country disrespected."
Although Compton's action is technically free speech protected under the First Amendment, the 12-year teaching veteran was suspended for the remainder of the school year and faces possible termination.
"Our superintendent served in the military, I served in the military for 20 years, our flag is a symbol of our freedom, and so many people have fought and died for that liberty, and so we take this action very seriously," Lexington-Richland 5 school district spokesman Mark Bounds told WISTV, apparently ignorant of the fact that the liberty he spoke of includes the freedom to desecrate Old Glory. Bounds cited a 'code of ethics' in justifying Compton's suspension.
"There is a code of ethics for teachers that talks about professional conduct, and then we tell our teachers that their personal opinion is their personal opinion and shouldn't be brought into the classroom, and so we caution them all the time," Bounds added.
Lexington-Richland 5 Superintendent Stephen Hefner has recommended Compton's termination.
"The actions that occurred are unprofessional and not consistent with the standards of our district," Hefner told the News Observer.
Darryl D. Smalls, Compton's attorney, told WISTV that his client meant no disrespect.
"He made only positive comments about America throughout his lesson," Smalls said, apparently unaware of the irony of his own statement. 'Positive comments about America,' after all, are more of an expression of opinion than stomping on a piece of cloth.
"He meant no intentional disrespect to those men and women who served our country or to America itself," Smalls continued. "Several members of his family served in the armed forces and they have his total support given all of the facts of the lesson."
"My client... was only trying to create a forum for discussion using a powerful symbol with which all his students would be familiar," Smalls asserted.
This is the second time in recent months that a teacher at a Lexington-Richland 5 school has made national headlines for controversial classroom actions. In October, Dutch Fork High School social studies teacher Laurie Humphrey was suspended after posting a sign in her classroom that read, "The road to hell is paved with Democrats."