By Victor Skinner
CHAPIN, S.C. – Chaplin High School English teacher Scott Compton believes the American flag is a meaningless piece of cloth.
To demonstrate his point, Compton repeatedly removed the flag in his classroom and stomped on it in front of his students as part of a lesson on symbolism for his Honors English classes, according to WISTV.com.
“He drew a couple of symbols, like one of them was a cross, and he said, ‘What does this represent,’ and everybody said ‘Christianity,’” said Michael Copeland, a parent who overheard his daughter talking about the incident and pressed her for details.
“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 then he throws it down on the floor and then stomps on it, repeatedly,” Copeland told the television station.
“I asked what was he trying to get, the point across? And she said, ‘I don’t know,’ … his explanation was there would be no consequences; it’s just a piece of cloth that doesn’t mean anything.”
Ironically, Compton’s students are learning a lesson, but it’s not the one he intended: actions do have consequences, and disrespecting the American flag isn’t the brightest idea.
Compton will remain suspended from his job as district officials complete a full investigation into the incident. Students were told they’ll have a permanent replacement teacher for the remainder of the school year, according to the television station.
“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,” Mark Bounds, spokesman for the school district, told WISTV.
Bounds said Compton should have known better.
“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 told WISTV.
Compton’s attorney Darryl D. Smalls issued a statement to WISTV defending the veteran teacher’s actions.
Compton “made only positive statements about America throughout this lesson,” Smalls wrote in an email to WISTV. “The version of events currently circulating is incomplete.
“He meant no intentional disrespect to those men and women who served our country or to America itself,” the statement read. “Several members of his family served in the Armed Forces and they have his total support given all of the facts of the lesson.”
Regardless of context, there’s military lore of soldiers who have literally died to prevent the American flag from touching the ground. Regardless of the intended message, stomping on the country’s most recognizable symbol of freedom is just plain wrong.
Hopefully, students will learn a whole lot more from the incident than Compton originally intended with his misguided lesson.
We hope Compton will learn his lesson, as well.