American flag confiscated from 7th-grade student

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17 Sep 2011, 9:12 am

DOVER, N.H. -- A Dover woman said she's upset that an American flag her son took to school was taken away by school staff.
Theresa Stevens said the flag, which is attached to a roughly 24-inch wooden stick with a standard gold spear tip, was given to her seventh-grade son, Shawn, by a family friend, the mother of U.S. Marine Cpl. Gary Fielding, who is about to deploy to Afghanistan.
"When he saw how upset the mother of this boy is that's going to Afghanistan, he wanted to do everything in his power to show support for her son," said Stevens.
Stevens said Shawn took the flag to Dover Middle School to be patriotic and to tell his friends about Fielding's service.
"He wants to bring patriotism back one person at a time, starting with his peer group and adults that have lost their way," Stevens said.
Stevens said her son, who is autistic, is very patriotic and has a deep interest in U.S. history.
"He's amazing," she said. "He's the most unique individual I have ever met. He knows everything about American history. He knows every war we've ever fought. He knows dates, times and places of when bombs were dropped, and why we got involved in wars."
But Wednesday morning, Stevens said she got a call from the school.
"I got the phone call at 8:30 yesterday morning," she said. "'This flag needs to be immediately removed from school because it can be considered a weapon.' I don't understand how an American flag can be considered a weapon."
Co-Principal Kimberly Lyndes said the spear point of the flag's stick was the problem.
"A student came to school yesterday with a flag that was rather large and didn't fit inside the backpack," she said. "A staff member felt that it could potentially be dangerous because of the pointy end and took the item and let the student know and the parent know that they took the item and could pick it up.
"It had nothing to do with patriotism or it being a flag. It was about potential danger and school safety."
Stevens accused the school of being inconsistent.
"So can pencils, so can protractors, so can any of the school supplies that they give to these children, and their stance is, 'Well, we don't let them wave them around in class, and your son has autism,'" Stevens said. "Really? That's your stance?"
Lyndes said the boy wasn't disciplined over bringing the flag to school.
"This was not a disciplinary issue at all," she said. "The student was spoken to. The situation was explained. I spoke to the parent at length about the situation to make sure that everyone understood that this was a safety concern."
Stevens said she isn't letting Shawn take the flag to school, but she plans to discuss the matter with school officials next week when she meets with them for an individualized education plan meeting about her son.
"When somebody shows up with an American flag on American soil at an American school, that's his First Amendment right to do so," Stevens said. "Just because he's 12 doesn't mean he doesn't have constitutional rights."
Stevens said she hopes the school will reconsider.
Lyndes said that the issue wasn't one of patriotism or expression, but rather safety.
"We have American flags in every classroom," she said. "We do the Pledge of Allegiance every day. Patriotism is definitely embraced at Dover Middle School. This incident had nothing to do with the fact that it was a flag. It was the pointed stick that the flag was on."

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Yellow-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Woodpecker

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17 Sep 2011, 9:23 am

I would have to agree with the school on this one. The mother of the child has a very good point that pencils and most other school supplies can be used as weapons in the same manner as a flag on a stick with a pointed end, but she's looking for alternative meanings where there are none. If the student tripped and fell while carrying this flag, he could hurt himself or others. If the student stabbed another student with the flag, he could harm the other student. If another student took the flag and stabbed another student with it, he or she could harm the other student. I don't see how this has anything to patriotism. The mother needs to calm down and assess this from a more logical point of view.


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17 Sep 2011, 9:31 am

And what does bringing a stupid flag into school have to do with constitutional rights? Besides, this has nothing to do with the son's autism. The school just tried to use every justification they could to explain to this stupid parent that bringing a pointy flag to school is unnecessary and doesn't prove any patriotic point. (GET IT???)


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17 Sep 2011, 11:06 am

The flag was mounted on a spear. It was the spear that was objected to, not the flag.



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17 Sep 2011, 12:15 pm

It's not just about the kid who brought the flag to school. If I had taken anything pointy to school it would have been 'liberated' from my bag in a matter of seconds and used as a weapon by someone else. I have to say I agree with the school on this. If he wants to bring a flag, then bring a smaller, less sharp one. I have a Welsh flag which is on like a straw and that couldn't hurt anyone!

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17 Sep 2011, 12:48 pm

could he have a folded flag without a post??

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