Kan. teacher who stepped on flag steps back

Sunday, September 11, 2011

TOWANDA, Kan. — A Kansas high school teacher has apologized and will change her lessons after parents objected when she stepped on a U.S. flag while discussing free-speech rights in her history class.

Officials at Circle High School in Towanda said Jennifer McKinsey, a U.S. government and history teacher, stepped on a flag last week while discussing controversial behaviors that are protected by the First Amendment, The Wichita Eagle reported on Sept. 9.

To illustrate the point and prompt class discussion, McKinsey took her personal American flag from the classroom wall, put it on the ground and stepped on it several times.

Cherie Davis, a parent of a Circle High student, complained in e-mails to the teacher and principal this week after a posting on her Facebook page prompted dozens of comments, including some that said McKinsey should be fired.

Davis said she was “shocked and saddened” when she heard about the incident from her son’s friend, who was in McKinsey’s class.

“I understand what this teacher’s probably trying to say, but I find it very upsetting,” Davis said. “The flag is a piece of cloth, yes, but it’s also not because of what it stands for. We should be teaching children to respect it.”

Circle High Principal Todd Dreifort, said in an e-mail to the Eagle on Sept. 8, “While no violation of the law has occurred, the district does not agree with the teacher’s actions.”

He said McKinsey was sorry for offending community members and had apologized to her students and their parents.

“There was never any intent on the teacher’s behalf to demean or deface the flag. It was to graphically illustrate the freedoms and protections American citizens are afforded by the Constitution, as well as to engage students in meaningful and thoughtful discussion,” he wrote.

Dreifort said McKinsey, who has used the flag demonstration in the past, wouldn’t do it again.

Davis said she didn’t want McKinsey to be punished or fired, but to understand the impact of her actions and consider a different way of teaching the lesson.

“We’re trying to teach children to respect each other, to respect our country, to respect elders. Then they go to school and witness things like this, and maybe they don’t have the maturity level to really understand what it means,” she said.

Dreifort said in his e-mail that Circle High School and the school district “humbly recognizes the sacrifices of our community’s and nation’s veterans . . . as well as those who are currently serving.

“Without their service, the freedoms we are discussing today would not be possible,” he said.


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