School library ‘exhibit’ displays the American flag on the floor to ‘teach kids,’ district scrambles to apologize

An Illinois high school sparked a firestorm of criticism after displaying an American flag on the ground.

School district officials issued an apology for a display at York Community High School in Elmhurst which featured the flag on the ground in a project on First Amendment rights, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“The purpose of the forum was to explore the complexities of the constitutionally protected right of free speech by examining real cases,” Principal Erin DeLuga said in a letter to parents on Tuesday explaining the one case using a recreation of Dread Scott’s “What is the proper way to display a U.S. Flag?”

(Image: screengrab York Community High School/Facebook)

That particular art display featuring a flag on the ground at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989 was called “disgraceful” by then-President George H.W. Bush.

“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 1st Amendment rights are protected,” DeLuga wrote.”These are difficult conversations when challenging students to think critically about issues that are relevant to them, school, and society.”

The display caused an outpouring of criticism as parents and students alike denounced the exhibit.

“My reaction was absolute disbelief,” senior Noah Krauter told the Tribune Wednesday, pointing out that the school could have used photos instead of recreating the display.

“I just couldn’t believe they had an act like that in the middle of the library, where thousands of students walk through,” he said. “It’s unbelievably disrespectful.”

Fox News Channel host Steve Doocy agreed.

“If you wanted to recreate something from 1989, there are pictures of it. Just show the picture. Don’t actually put a flag on the ground,” Doocy said on “Fox & Friends” Thursday. “You’re not supposed to do that.”

“The flag should have never touched the ground. Teach young people today to respect the greatest country on earth. The flag is not a social experiment. This is a disgrace,” wrote one woman on the school’s Facebook page where countless others voiced their opinions.

Neither the school board nor district administrators were aware of the plans for the flag display, which had been underway for a few weeks, according to a school district spokeswoman, the Tribune reported.

The display was done “in a very respectful way,” Melea Smith said. “I think nobody anticipated such an uproar over this. Yes, the flag was lying on the floor, but they had it in an area that was roped off by a little white chain. There was nobody walking on the flag or anything like that. ”

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

The display was taken down Tuesday as had originally been the plan, with the flag being turned over to the Elmhurst American Legion “to ensure that it would be retired respectfully in accordance with proper flag etiquette,” DeLuga explained in her letter to parents.

But for many, the damage had already been done.

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Frieda Powers

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