Parents, veterans speak out in wake of flag-stomping incident

Retired Vietnam veteran Tom Fincher
Retired Vietnam veteran Tom Fincher
Parents, Veterans, students attend Monday night's school board meeting at Chapin High School.
Parents, Veterans, students attend Monday night's school board meeting at Chapin High School.

CHAPIN, SC (WIS) - Lexington-Richland School District Five made no decision Monday night on whether or not to terminate a teacher in the district who ignited a nationwide controversy after he allegedly threw down an American flag and stomped on it in front of his classes as part of a lesson.

District spokesperson Mark Bounds said the district's investigation into the matter is over. Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hafter has made the recommendation to the school board to fire Chapin High School teacher Scott Compton.

According to the South Carolina Teacher and Employment Dismissal Act, Compton has 15 days to respond to the request for termination. If he appeals, he has the right to a hearing before the board to prove his case.

The board discussed the matter behind closed doors at its packed meeting Monday night at Chapin High School. There was plenty of talk about the subject during the public comment portion of the meeting.

A retired Vietnam veteran, Tom Fincher with Chapin's American Legion Post, told the crowd he would like for the board to consider allowing a flag disposal ceremony to take place at the school's campus. He said that's the only way to bring closure to the issue.

"We're for anything that enhances respect for the American flag," said Fincher. "That flag we served under, died under. It is more than a piece of cloth."

Parents, on the other hand, said the closure they want to see is Compton removed from the classroom

"Based on this person's actions, this teacher is not a role model for my children," said one parent. "And is the epitome of who I don't want my children to grow up to be."

The district placed Compton on administrative leave after parents characterized his lessons as disrespectful and unpatriotic.

When Michael Copeland overheard his teenager talking about what her honors II English teacher did with the flag in their classroom, he pressed for details.

"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 Copeland.

"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."

"I asked what was he trying to get, the point across? And she said, 'I don't know,' and he said, his explanation was there would be no consequences, it's just a piece of cloth that doesn't mean anything."

But there are consequences.

"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," said Mark Bounds, a spokesperson for Lexington-Richland 5.

Compton repeated the lesson in three classes that day, prompting a full investigation. After an unrelated incident at Dutch Fork where a teacher was suspended for a political sign in her room, officials say teachers know 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," said Bounds.

Copeland believes telling students the 50 stars symbolize the 50 states, the red and white stripes, symbolize the original 13 colonies might have been a better way.

"He totally ignored what I consider what would have been an excellent teaching point to just simply throw the flag down and show no respect to it at all and to the people that it means a whole lot to," said Copeland.


The class was told they'd have a permanent replacement for Compton for the remainder of the year.

District officials would not say if Compton is still receiving pay.

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