Sunday, August 27, 2006

Flag Flapped In Colorado

Seventh grade history teacher Eric Hamlin put up some foreign flags in his classroom and ran right into a buzz saw:
Carmody Middle School geography teacher Eric Hamlin will be reassigned to another school, at his request, following a dispute over foreign flags in his classroom, Jefferson County school officials said Friday.

Hamlin has decided that his presence at Carmody would be divisive, the district said.

Hamlin, who taught seventh grade at the Lakewood school, was suspended with pay Wednesday after he refused to take down three foreign flags that he had hung in his room. The principal believed that Hamlin was in violation of a Colorado law barring the display of foreign flags in state buildings.

School district officials concluded that Hamlin's display fell under an educational exception to the state foreign flag law. But Hamlin had hinted Thursday that he might not feel welcome at Carmody because some workers there resented the media attention he brought to the school.

Hamlin had been with the district for nine years, but was on his first day of a new assignment at Carmody when the flag issue arose. Hamlin could not be reached for comment Friday.

A statement by the district quoted him as saying, "I want to do what's in the best interest of the Carmody family which includes the students and my fellow teachers. It is my hope that Carmody will move forward towards a successful school year, and put this incident behind them."

The district will seek another assignment for Hamlin. Meanwhile, he remains on paid leave.

Jefferson County school district spokeswoman Lynn Setzer said a new assignment for Hamlin could open within a few days as administrators determine where more teachers are needed for the new semester.

The flap started when Carmody Principal John Schalk determined that Hamlin was violating the law. Schalk is not being reprimanded, Setzer said.
Call me old fashioned, but when the boss directs an employee to do something that is not illegal, shouldn't the employee comply?

Here in our part of California, a teacher may be suspended immediately (pending termination of employment) for insubordination for "refusing" to comply with his or her principal's legal directives.

As for the flags themselves, (Hamlin has displayed some 60 over the years.) I don't have a problem with their display. After all, Hamlin is a history teacher, and colorful flags displayed tastefully in the classroom are good attention-grabbers and classroom discussion starters.

Still... I have to ask some questions: Was teacher Eric Hamlin insubordinate? And if he was, did he "get away" with it? And if he did "get away" with it, why? (See related story below.)

Related: See the Denver Post's columnist Jim Spencer's
take on this story (Spencer infers that Hamlin played the "race" card as one of the flags was that of Mexico.) and the Rocky Mountain News' follow-up.

Update:(PM) Check out the lively discussion in our commenting thread. We also give our opinion about what Hamlin should have done.
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