Civil Liberties

Teacher Stomped on the Flag During Lesson About Free Speech. He Was Fired.

Teaching kids all the wrong lessons


American flag

An Illinois high school teacher was fired after stepping on the American flag to prove a point about free speech.

The teacher, Jordan Parmenter, had been using a flag as a pointer during class on May 15. At least one student accused him of being disrespectful toward the national symbol, so Parmenter dropped the flag on the ground and stomped on it, according to

Word quickly spread, and soon enough, demonstrators appeared outside Martinsville Junior-Senior High School. Parmenter wrote a letter of apology, but the school board voted 6-0 to fire him.

Maybe there are good reasons to terminate Parmenter, and we don't know the whole story. But merely stepping on the American flag—especially in the context of a lesson about free speech—should not be a firing offense. Desecrating the flag is not merely a constitutional right; it's an expression of one of the most foundational American values: freedom of speech. Educating young people about these values by way of demonstration doesn't strike me as inappropriate. On the contrary, it strikes me as vital.

The school board had a golden opportunity to show kids that honoring the values the flag represents is more important than honoring the flag itself. Instead, they imparted a different lesson: that no act of defiance goes unpunished by the government.

Perhaps that's an important lesson as well.