Shake Your Head?
Teacher Placed On Leave For Hanging Foreign Flags
Geography Teacher At Carmody Middle School Refuses To Take Down Flags
POSTED: 3:01 pm MDT August 23, 2006
UPDATED: 10:15 am MDT August 24, 2006
LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- A Jefferson County geography teacher was placed on paid administrative on the second day of school for hanging several flags from other countries in his classroom.
Eric Hamlin said the flags were part of a world geography lesson plan at Carmody Middle School and refused to take them down. The school's principal escorted Hamlin out of class Wednesday morning after he refused to remove the flags of China and Mexico.
The school district placed him on administrative leave for insubordination, citing a Colorado law that makes it illegal to display foreign flags permanently in schools.
"Under state law, foreign flags can only be in the classroom because it's tied to the curriculum. And the principal looked at the curriculum, talked to the teacher, and found that there was really no curriculum coming up in the next few weeks that supported those flags being in the classroom," said Jeffco Public Schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer.
But Hamlin said although his curriculum may not speak specifically about those flags, they are used as reference tools for world geography.
"It's much along the lines of a science teacher who puts up a map of the solar system. They may not spend every day and every lesson talking about Mars, but they want the students to see that and to see the patterns of the planets and the order, and the students will observe that and absorb that learning visually," Hamlin said.
Hamlin said that the school district is not only depriving him of a teaching tool but also taking away from his students' education.
"The major problem I see here is with the law that limits educators," Hamlin said.
"We have to uphold state law. We really have no discretion when it comes to upholding the law," Setzer said.
Hamlin said he understands that the school district is only following state law so he's met with the American Civil Liberties Union and, if necessary, plans on fighting the constitutionality of the law.
This is the fourth year Hamlin has worked within the Jeffco School District, and he said he's hung the flags every year without a problem. This is his first year at Carmody Middle School.
Hamlin, who teaches 7th grade, said he believes the national debate surrounding immigration and the Mexican flag has contributed to the controversy. He wonders if he would have caused such a stir if he had hung flags of Switzerland or Australia instead of Mexico.
Hamlin will be on paid administrative leave indefinitely, pending the outcome of the school district's investigation.
Do you think the teacher should be fired for refusing to remove the flags or is the school district interpreting the state law wrong? Click here to post your thoughts on this story or to read what others are saying.
Copyright 2006 by TheDenverChannel.com.
Do we have nothing better to do with our time than b*tch out teachers who want to help kids.... what are we saying to the next generation...
Wow. With all the issues going on today, this shouldn't even be one. I think its a very strict and litteral interp. of the law. I don't think it was intended to be that way. That's a guess though. I'd be interested to see the background behind that law being created and any previous cases (if any) that used this law.