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Colorado Teacher Suspended for Displaying Foreign Flags

Is it really a violation of state law?

by Richard 'Mr. Moo' Moore
September 3, 2006

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Colorado Teacher Suspended for Displaying Foreign Flags

I have spent my entire life around teachers. I understand what it means to go in a couple weeks before classes begin in order to prepare for the classes of the coming year. I know that the average teacher spends plenty of money (about $500 per school year) out of their own pocket to prepare their classroom because money is not always available for classroom supplies. There is a lot of work that goes on ahead of time.

Eric Hamlin understands that. Eric is a middle school teacher in Lakewood, Colorado. He teaches geography. And as part of his classroom prep, he displays many of the flags of the countries that the students will be studying.

That was until a few days before school started.

Hamlin had been a teacher in the district for nine years and had never had a problem displaying the flags before. But this year was different.

It was at that point when Eric's principal delivered a written request to remove the flags by the next day. When Eric refused, the principal escorted him out of the building and notified him that he was suspended from the district. The source of the dismissal was based on the principal's reading of a Colorado law that bars the display of foreign flags in state buildings.

Some would say that the story had a happy ending as Hamlin was reassigned to another school within the district and it was determined that the flags could fly. Good deal. The questionable interpretation of the law by the principal was going to have no negative consequences for his own job. That is wrong.

With all of the grief that teachers get during the year, it is a shame that it started this way for Hamlin, getting grief from his boss. I guess that goes to show that teaching is similar to other professions. You either catch hell from those you serve or those you work for.

Hey, Eric. This former teacher respects your right to prep your classroom for learning by your students and fly the flags. Maybe in addition to geography, your actions can teach some about standing up for what is right. That lesson will go farther in life that any geography that you could teach.

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Brooks from Mebane, NC writes:
September 3, 2006
Rich, I read a blurb about this on Geography, About.com. After reading the articles in the Rocky Mountain News, I was more aggravated than you. The Jefferson County Board of Education did a great job of covering its behind in reassigning Hamlin a seasoned teacher. However, some sort of reprimand is needed for the know-nothing principal, John Schalk . It is apparent that underlying problems prompted this face-off. The principal used a chicken way out by attaching his punishment to the flag. Since, I am a geographer by education and a teacher by heart, it is a slap in the face of geography education in Colorado. From a review of the Carmody Middle School's website, it is apparent that Schalk is really proud of the school's test scores. His main goal is probably high results on the end of course test instead of a teacher's imagination to teach those middle schoolers. God please save us from the do-gooders.

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