ELMHURST, Ill. – Officials at York High School are apologizing after an “exhibit” about free speech featured an American flag lying on the ground in the library, and pictures posted online ignited a firestorm of criticism.
From the Chicago Tribune:
The display at York Community High School in Elmhurst was part of a forum “to explore the complexities of the constitutionally protected right of free speech by examining real cases,” Principal Erin DeLuga said in a letter to parents on Tuesday.
One case was a re-creation of artist Dread Scott’s “What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?” The controversial interactive art installment had featured a flag displayed on the ground at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989. It drew the ire of then-President George H.W. Bush, who called it “disgraceful.”
Many folks had the exact same reaction to the “re-creation” when students posted images of the display on social media.
“My reaction was absolute disbelief,” senior Noah Krauter told the news site. “I just couldn’t believe they had an act like that in the middle of the library, where thousands of students walk through. It’s unbelievably disrespectful.”
Some took out their frustrations with the exhibit online, while others wrote in to district officials.
“York High School, this is disgusting,” Jay Zito posted to Facebook along with a picture of the flag on the ground, surrounded by a white plastic chain.
“As a York alum and American citizen, I am appalled,” another commenter posted, according to the Elmhurst Patch. “Our country’s flag must never be on the ground.”
Villa Park resident Ashley Lindgren, wife of a U.S. Marine veteran, penned a letter to Elmhurst Unit District 205 officials with her thoughts on the matter.
“I think there are better ways to get the point across about or First Amendment rights,” she told the Daily Herald.
A picture of Dread Scott’s original work, which invited folks to walk on the flag, would have sufficed, she said.
“You don’t need to re-create it,” Lindgren said. “There are other ways to make your point. Disrespecting our flag in a public school setting should not be part of that.”
District 205 spokeswoman Melea Smith acknowledged that officials received numerous complaints Tuesday, the one day the exhibit was on display. Afterwards, two students folded the flag and delivered it to a representative with the Elmhurst American Legion to retire.
Smith alleges “there was never any intention to upset people or be disrespectful,” and said school officials “were taken by surprise with the reaction,” the Daily Herald reports.
School officials posted to Facebook on Wednesday to offer an explanation and apology for the controversial display.
“We ask our students to think critically about issues relevant to them and our society. At the same time, we understand that this demonstration caused some angst in the larger community and for that, we deeply apologize,” the York Community High School post read.
“Yesterday afternoon and throughout the day today, York administrators have met with students to provide them with an opportunity to express their perspectives. Through these conversations, feedback has been gathered on how the administration and staff can ensure that all students’ voices are represented through productive and respectful discourse going forward,” the post continued.
“Our staff and students will learn from this week’s lesson, and we will make changes to this forum in the future to ensure we do not disrespect our flag.”