Flags Raise a Flap
Getting hauled out of the classroom on day two wasn't exactly how Eric Hamlin had expected to kick off a new year at a new school. But Hamlin, a geography teacher at Carmody Middle School in Lakewood, Colorado, was suspended for allegedly flouting state law. His offense: displaying flags from other countries. Yes, that's right. Colorado law says that foreign flags may hang in classrooms only when they are relevant to the curriculum. After a little detective work, Principal John Schalk determined that Hamlin had no lessons planned for the immediate future that would relate directly to the flags in question—those of the United Nations, Mexico, and China. Officials, Hamlin said, seemed to think the Mexican flag in particular would "send these seventh graders into a spin and they would start protesting." When Hamlin refused to remove the flags, the Jefferson County School District had him escorted from his classroom and placed on administrative leave. "We have to uphold state law," said district spokeswoman Lynn Setzer. The district quickly backpedaled, though—offering to reinstate Hamlin and allow the flags to fly for up to six weeks, at which time he would have to rotate them with the proud banners of other nations. "Our district believes in win-win situations," said Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. Rather than returning to Carmody, Hamlin has asked to be reassigned to another school. Though he was new at Carmody, this is his fourth year in the Jefferson County district, where he has previously displayed flags from Iraq, Palestine, and other places. "It's much along the lines of a science teacher who puts up a map of the solar system," he said. "They may not spend every day and every lesson talking about Mars, but they want the students to see that."