Thursday, March 4, 2021

US flag displayed on the ground at York H.S.

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When pictures of a US flag on display Tuesday on the library floor at York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois, started circulating on social media, it caused quite the scandal, writes Robert Sanchez in the Daily Herald.

The display, which was a partial re-creation of a 1989 work by artist Dread Scott, was part of a daylong interdisciplinary forum for sophomore students about First Amendment rights. The forum included five real-life cases for students to consider, including this one.

Scott’s original work was entitled “What is the proper way to display a U.S. Flag?” People were invited to walk on the flag, but York’s re-creation put up a chain barrier around the flag so people wouldn’t walk on it.

“This is in no way meant to disrespect the flag, the military, or the government; rather, it was used for students to reconcile their feelings about current issues and whether their First Amendment rights are protected,” the paper quoted Principal Erin DeLuga as writing in a letter to parents.

Of course, students took pictures of the display and posted it to their social media accounts, which generally produced a viral response, with commentators from the larger community calling the lesson disrespectful, disgusting, and no end of other scandalous adjectives.

“I think there are better ways to get the point across about our First Amendment rights,” commented one woman from Villa Park, whose husband is a Marine veteran.

Statement posted on the District 205 website

On Tuesday, September 26, York Community High School’s entire sophomore class explored First Amendment rights as part of a daylong, interdisciplinary forum that centered on banned books, music, social media and the American flag. Examples were chosen based on their relevance to teenagers.

One First Amendment case involved re-creating a 1989 installation by Chicago artist Dread Scott, who was later part of a landmark US Supreme Court decision protecting the right to free speech. Unlike the Scott example, York’s display was created to ensure the flag was not stepped on or defaced in any way. The goal was to create an authentic learning environment, and we are continuing to learn from this experience.

We ask our students to think critically about issues relevant to them and our society. At the same time, we understand that this demonstration caused some angst in the larger community and for that we deeply apologize.

York Principal Erin DeLuga shared the following information with families yesterday:

  • The purpose of the forum was to explore the complexities of the constitutionally protected right of free speech by examining real cases and encourage students to think critically about issues relevant to them and our society.
  • One of the cases was a recreation of Dread Scott’s “What is the proper way to display a U.S. Flag?” The Scott installation featured the flag on the ground. The York display did not intend to disrespect the flag, the military, or the government; rather, it was used for students to reconcile their feelings about current issues and whether their 1st Amendment rights are protected.
  • Two of the students folded the flag and turned it over to a representative from the Elmhurst American Legion to ensure that it would be retired respectfully in accordance with proper flag etiquette.
  • We have these conversations in the school environment to foster greater dialogue when our students are in the community.

Yesterday afternoon and throughout the day today, York administrators have met with students to provide them with an opportunity to express their perspectives. Through these conversations, feedback has been gathered on how the administration and staff can ensure that all students’ voices are represented through productive and respectful discourse going forward.

Our staff and students will learn from this week’s lesson, and we will make changes to this forum in the future to ensure we do not disrespect the flag.

The response, which included a number of emails from the community and at least a few students who were “visibly upset” by the display, certainly caught York officials off-guard. They won’t repeat the display, and the flag itself was properly retired by the American Legion a day after the display.

“There was never any intention to upset people or be disrespectful,” the paper quoted a District 205 administrator as saying. “I think they were taken by surprise with the reaction.”

Paul Katulahttps://news.schoolsdo.org
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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