North Carolina history teacher Lee Francis sparked controversy after stepping on an American flag during a lesson on freedom of speech and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
As a result of the vitriolic backlash for the perceived offense, Francis was suspended, could be fired, and faces the threat of losing his teacher’s license.
Francis spoke with Roland Martin during Wednesday’s edition of NewsOne Now about the battle he’s waging to keep his job.
The educator told Martin that school Superintendent Frank Till, Jr. told him “bluntly” he would not return to the classroom and was relocated in September to work in a warehouse to move pallets and electronic equipment.
Up until the First Amendment lesson, Francis did not have any issues in the classroom and received “stellar” evaluations from the principal of Massey Hill Classical High School, located in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
According to Francis, the superintendent explained his acts “were not an act of civil disobedience towards the county or the school.” He questioned the motives behind the suspension, relocation and possible termination, saying, “What exactly did I do wrong?”
Martin said, “What they’re really doing is basically falling prey to community protest.”
Francis responded to Martin’s assessment: “It seems that way. The superintendent said that while my actions were not an act of civil disobedience, it was ‘inappropriate,’ and that was the basis for discipline.”
When asked what’s next, Francis told Martin, “My hearing is set for November 30th, where the school board will decide whether or not I’m terminated or whether or not I keep my job. The school board does not decide, however, whether or not I go back into a classroom. The superintendent made that clear – that is not an option.”
If the school board rules that Francis can keep his job, he will return to working in the warehouse. The stakes for Francis are even more dire than just keeping his job. He told Martin, “Even if the board decides not to terminate me, one of the things that the superintendent is well within his rights to do is to take my teacher’s license if I am terminated.”
He added, “Not only do I not teach in the county, I don’t teach in the state, which by and large I don’t get reciprocity in other states to teach.”
Watch Lee Francis discuss his battle to retain his position as an educator in the video clip above.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty