MARTINSVILLE, Ill. – An Illinois public school teacher has been placed on leave for the rest of the school year after allegedly placing an American flag on the floor of his classroom last week and stepping on it.
The teacher, who has not been identified, was apparently giving a lesson to students at Martinsville Junior/Senior High School about freedom of speech and expression, and used the flag as a prop.
Students reported the incident on Facebook, drawing national attention.
“We can’t figure out why he actually went to the simulations of actually doing it,” Jonathon Smith, a senior at Martinsville Junior/Senior High School, was quoted as saying by TristateHomePage.com.
“He talked about it being the right to do whatever he wants. That’s why it was there so he could do whatever he wants, but we have no idea why he would actually take it down and basically start all this.”
Several residents reportedly protested outside the school Tuesday, taking turns walking an American flag back and forth in front of the building.
“It’s just disgraceful,” protester Clifford Clouser, a U.S. Navy veteran, told WTHI-TV on Tuesday. “There’s just so much history in that flag – some good, some bad – but it’s still our flag.”
Protester Nicholas Gibson, a veteran of the U.S. Marines, told the TV station, “It should have never happened. I’m very proud of these kids that have stood up for what they believe in.”
The school district issued a statement on Tuesday indicating that the teacher has been suspended and the incident is under investigation.
“On Friday, May 15th, in the evening, Jill Rogers, the Superintendent of Martinsville Community Unit School District No. C-3, became aware of an incident that occurred in the high school where a teacher was alleged to have stepped on an American Flag in the classroom,” the statement said. “On Monday morning, Ms. Rogers placed the teacher on leave pending an investigation into the incident.
“The teacher will remain on leave for the remainder of the school year so that the District may investigate the incident and determine steps to move forward.
“We are also aware that community members have made threats against the teacher on Facebook. We have notified the police of the threats. We encourage everyone in the community to teach our students by example that we can express our disapproval with a situation without becoming threatening and/or potentially violent.
“To ensure the safety of the teacher involved, as well as the safety of his family, we will not be releasing his name at this time.”