School Principal Contacts FBI After Student Throws American Flag Out A Window

from the perhaps-the-most-'Murica-thing-that-has-ever-happened dept

In the stupidest case of school administrators taking federal agencies’ names in vain since a Huntsville, AL school swore a phone call from the NSA prompted its secret social media monitoring program, a middle school principal from Espanola, NM is threatening to sic the FBI on a student who threw an American flag out a classroom window.

A middle school principal said a student was misbehaving with his friends and took things too far. The student threw an American flag out a second-story classroom window. Now the principal says the 14-year-old needs to be held accountable.

Sure, maybe a stern discussion with him and his parents and a couple of weeks of detention would do the trick. But that’s not enough for Principal Robert Archuleta. He has already suspended the student for 10 days and is now pushing for his expulsion. But he also wants the feds to take control of the situation… because jingoism.

“He says, ‘Because I was just messing around,’ and he started to laugh,” Archuleta said. “Then the other kids were laughing, the kids that were with him. ‘There goes the flag.’ That was his last statement.”

The principal is a veteran. His father is also a veteran who fought in World War II.

“A lot of men have died over [the flag], men and women,” Archuleta said. “We fought to keep our country safe and to keep it free.”

Well, let’s stop you right there, Robert. Nobody “died over the flag.” The flag is a symbol of this country and what it stands for, but it is not what people die “over.” They die defending this country and the freedoms it affords its citizens — among them being the right to throw a flag out the window. It’s not as starkly effective as burning it, but it’s pretty much the same thing.

Archuleta believes this amounts to the federal crime of desecrating the flag… except that no such law exists. Sure, legislators who also mistakenly believe they’ve sent people off to “die over the flag” have repeatedly tried to pass laws making this a crime, and they have repeatedly been told “please stop doing this” by the Supreme Court. These same misguided lawmakers have also sought to dodge the court system entirely by proposing Constitutional amendments to the same effect, but have yet to see these ratified.

So, turning this student over to the FBI to be “held responsible” for a non-existent crime will be completely fruitless and only side benefit will be the entertainment it provides to those who enjoy watching fools prove themselves foolish. (Which, granted, is a lot of us…)

The FBI told KRQE News 13 they haven’t yet received the complaint yet, but if a federal crime was committed they will investigate and turn the results over to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

But there hasn’t been, so it won’t. All that will happen is that Archuleta will continue to make one student’s life completely miserable because he doesn’t seem to comprehend nothing more than a personally-offensive incident has taken place. And he’s apparently willing to wrap himself in the now-dusty flag to do it. Loving your country is one thing. Assuming it won’t be able to weather this 14-year-old’s assault on one of its many symbols without federal intervention is quite another. And using your misguided patriotism as the impetus for punishments that far outweigh the non-crime is an abuse of the power granted to you by the public.

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Comments on “School Principal Contacts FBI After Student Throws American Flag Out A Window”

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82 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How do you throw out a flag

i will add this, it USED to be that you took the flag down at sunset (as a sign of ‘respect’, etc); BUT, since we are such lazy ‘patriots’ (coughcough), that was so-o-o-o hard, so now everyone let’s them fly 24/7/365…
NOT because that tradition changed, but because we couldn’t be bothered, *THAT’S
how much we love ‘murika…
blowhard, spittle-flecked ‘patriots’ are the worst…

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: How do you throw out a flag

i will add this, it USED to be that you took the flag down at sunset (as a sign of ‘respect’, etc); BUT, since we are such lazy ‘patriots’ (coughcough*), that was so-o-o-o hard, so now everyone let’s them fly 24/7/365…

The tradition is to EITHER take the flag down OR light it at night. It is by nature not obvious who is leaving unlit flags up at night. 😉

Greevar (profile) says:

Nobody “died over the flag.”

You’d be wrong about that. In the war of 1812, men defending fort McHenry from a British attack put themselves in the path of cannons that were trying to knock down the American flag. Their corpses were all that kept that flag from touching the ground, and those were the events that became the lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner.

That said, dying over a flag is a foolish gesture. Someone dying to defend principles and liberty are a different thing entirely. To take offense at the abuse of a flag is just silly. The flag is not sacred, but people are. Anyone who abuses a flag should not be ostracized for the flag. Instead, they should be reprimanded the same as anyone who would vandalize a building. Conversely, anyone that abuses a flag out of grievance with the government it represents should actually be called a patriot. That’s what patriotism is, telling the government that they are infringing your fundamental rights.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Fort McHenry

…and a majority of Congress appears to have decided that this instance of soldiers literally dying for the flag was worthy and wonderful enough to become the topic of the national anthem.

Whereas I look at as a foolish waste of life – as George S. Patton said, “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, that’s why it’s called “Congress”. Because it’s the opposite of “Progress”.

Sheriff Fatman says:

Re: Re:

In the war of 1812, men defending fort McHenry from a British attack put themselves in the path of cannons that were trying to knock down the American flag.

Could that have been not so much love for a piece of cloth, but because a dropped flag was a sign of surrender (“striking the colours”; also see, “nailing one’s colours to the mast”)?

My only knowledge in this area comes from reading Patrick O’Brian novels, so I’m happy to admit I may be talking mince.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, that’s correct. From ancient days, the flag has been a visible rallying point and a symbol of the strength of one’s army, and capturing an enemy flag was considered a great feat of valor.

Even further, during the American Civil War, a flag barer or also known as color barer and color guard (who were responsible for keeping the color barer safe, but often failed, and if the color barer was lost, they stepped in to take the position,) was a very esteemed and privileged and also very deadly position. Your job was to keep the flag flying at all costs, and when you lost yours, another flag barer would step forward to take the position. Flag barers couldn’t fight back, as their hands kept the flag flying and thus couldn’t manipulate their weapons.

It is the main reason why military and civilian barers are flanked by color guard with ceremonial weapons today…

However, the best way to fix this disrespect for the flag is through talk, not through locking the person up and preventing them from getting an education. Teach them why the flag is so important, and why so many people died under, not over, the flag. They didn’t die for the flag, they died for their brother or sister, or the ideal of America. The kid probably hasn’t had a good influence in their life to sit them down and show them what it really means.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes and no – if the colours were knocked away, that wouldn’t be taken as a sign of surrender, especially if they were put back up straight away.

Even abroad a ship, if he colours were taken down by the attacker, it didn’t mean the entire ship’s company had surrendered, it just changed the legal status of the ship itself (which was important for the laws regarding salvage and prizes). If the defending captain ordered the colours struck, that was in implicit order to surrender, but even that didn’t prohibit an attempt to recapture the ship later (exactly how much later was legal depends on who won).

In the case of Fort McHenry, it wouldn’t have made any real difference anyway, because the British weren’t really interested in the fort (unless they could destroy it easily), they just wanted to raid Baltimore and cut out or burn the shipping.

DB (profile) says:

Be careful that you don’t mistake an inspirational story for historical truth.

Even when men have dropped their weapons to pick up a flag, it doesn’t mean quite what is claimed — that the flag was so important that it mustn’t touch the ground.

Flags were an important signaling device in battle. Before radio, the best way to communicate was often with flags. A flag flying over an island fort let the city know that it was still defended. A fallen flag would trigger an evacuation or surrender.

But… only four people died in the Ft. McHenry battle that inspired the Star Spangled banner. That could hardly count as a pile of corpses.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Well there's the problem

The principle of a high school, charged with teaching our children, and he does not even understand the Constitution, which is basic for every civic class, or should be.

It was probably true of the teachers and principles that were in charge of his education, or obvious lack there of.

They only seem to see the stick, and not the carrot, when it comes to discipline. Being a veteran, one would think he learned something of leadership, which he apparently forgot when he mustered out.

Val Valerian (profile) says:

Problem Principal

The fact that this principal has this little ‘movie’ about ‘patriotism’ going IN HIS HEAD doesn’t give him any right to bother anyone else. The principals office is also apparently the last refuge of scoundrels. Kids will be kids, especially when authoritarian control freaks with psychological problems want to continually impose themselves on younger, more vulnerable people under various guises of ‘concern’ …. sounds like the principal is a narcissist. Also, as George Carlin said one time … symbols are for the symbol-minded.

Zonker says:

… Archuleta said. “We fought to keep our country safe and to keep it free.”

Principal/Veteran Robert Archuleta should face an ex post facto dishonorable discharge for attacking those very freedoms he claims to have fought for and violating his Oath of Enlistment:

§ 502. Enlistment oath: who may administer

(a) Enlistment Oath.— Each person enlisting in an armed force shall take the following oath:
“I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

(b) Who May Administer.— The oath may be taken before the President, the Vice-President, the Secretary of Defense, any commissioned officer, or any other person designated under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense.”

As the Supreme Court has ruled that “desecration of the flag” is protected under the First Amendment, his oath to support and defend the Constitution has been broken.

Anonymous Coward says:

Teacher needs to be taught.

So in order to protect a symbol, representing the country in a only visual way, this genius decides that the best way to act is to throw out the fundamentals of what makes America the country it is (or supposed to).
A damned principal should know that it wasn’t a piece of cloth he fought for, but what it represents… which is exactly what he, not so subtly, is stomping on.

Anonymous Coward says:

The FBI? Really? Why not call in the Secret Service too? The student disrespected the American flag, ergo he is clearly a terrorist. Better add him to the no-fly list for good measure. No, wait, we clearly need to send a strong message in this case. Let’s ship him off to some shithole and drone strike the little prick…
Jokes aside, this idiot principal is attempting to ruin the life of a student over a non-crime. I really hope the parents contact the ACLU and sue the school district. Their refusal to step in and correct the situation makes them just as guilty. Perhaps writing a few large checks will help provide some clarity…

You're a Grand Old Flag says:

Cushing you're a goddamned fool

Of coruse men have died for the American flag and every national flag ever thrown.

An ensign falling on the battlefield was tantamount to defeat. Have you never wondered at the meaning of the four stanzas of “The Star Spangled Banner”???

Ignorance is bad enough. Militant ignorance, from a slacker no less, is intolerable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Cushing you're a goddamned fool

The Flag is considered to be the embodiment of our nation and it’s value.

No, the flag is a symbol, not a strictly defined embodiment of formally described values. The flag ‘means’ different things in different contexts: it can represent the Constitution, the military, the current government, veterans, unjust laws, hypocrisy, corruption, a particular war, war in general, or a plain ol’ geographic area.

Hell, ‘desecrating’ the flag doubles the potential symbolic mismatch: not only may two people have different ideas of what the flag symbolizes at any given point, but burning a flag may as well. Does the burning represent a rejection of what is symbolized, or does it represent the idea that others (usually the government) are themselves destroying what is symbolized?

The kid in the story tossed a symbol of authority out the window. The principal is the highest authority in the school, and may have taken it as a personal insult while hiding behind a veneer of ‘patriotism.’ Or it might’ve all been something completely different.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'People died for your freedoms! Just, you know, not the ones I don't like.'

“A lot of men have died over [the flag], men and women,” Archuleta said. “We fought to keep our country safe and to keep it free.

I wonder if he even realizes what he said there. He claims that people fought and died to keep the country free, yet not, apparently, free to express your opinion, one of the most important freedoms around.

The student may have tossed a flag out the window, but by his actions, it’s the principal that’s showing such massive contempt for it, and the people who died for what it’s meant to stand for.

Pablo says:

Re: 'People died for your freedoms! Just, you know, not the ones I don't like.'

Yes, it is the student’s right to be an utter asshole. It is your right to defend him in a similar manner. And it’s the teacher’s and principal’s right to be offended by the little dirtbag.

The problem here, is that it’s always been considered to be an additional duty of our educators to install our children with a bit of civic knowledge, duty and pride. But those things just aren’t “cool” anymore, and seen as downright oppressive. Right up to the point that assholes like this think that their precious freedoms have been infringed.

If you like those freedoms so damned much, than have just one grams worth of balls to stand up to the douchebags that want to piss on the very thing that symbolizes them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'People died for your freedoms! Just, you know, not the ones I don't like.'

The student threw a flag out the window, but it’s the principal who’s showing such glaring contempt for what it stands for, so I’m not sure you’re aiming those ‘utter asshole’ and ‘little dirtbag’ remarks at the right person.

You don’t honor the sacrifice of those that fought and died to defend the freedoms of those from their home country, by attempting to punish someone for exercising those freedoms in a manner that you happen to disapprove of, as long as in so doing they aren’t harming anyone(feelings don’t count).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: I most certainly can

Yes, I can blame him. Because they didn’t die for a flag, they died for what it stands for, the ideals it represents, and if he’s going to claim that they died to protect people’s freedoms, attempting to stomp on or restrict those freedoms is to do a disservice to those that fought and died.

DNY (profile) says:

Metonymy is lost on some

The article is pretty much spot on, except for the harping on the phrase “die over the flag” (I think the usual phrase is “die for the flag”).

Have you really never heard of the rhetorical device of metonymy? To die for the flag is to die for what the flag represents. Now you may be a pacifist and find the notion morally objectionable, or an anti-militarist and hold the notion in contempt, but don’t feign stupidity and act as if you don’t understand a classical rhetorical device.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Metonymy is lost on some

But it’s not just a rhetorical device, or the principal wouldn’t have treated a relatively innocuous act as if it were a federal crime, and people would not have been arrested for things like flag-burning, etc.

That actual fact is that there is a portion of the population for whom it’s not rhetorical at all. They see the physical flag as being some kind of holy relic.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

One of the freedoms that people have died for

One of the freedoms that people have died for is the freedom to to do anything you like to a piece of cloth that happens to have red and white stripes with a star-spangled field of blue. That includes burning it, shredding it, defenestrating it, and so forth just as much as it includes pledging allegiance to it.

In this particular case, the student did not own the flag in question, so the student might be guilty of vandalism — but that’s a different issue entirely that has nothing to do with it being a flag, and the FBI would be immensely uninterested in it.

Don_Fitch says:

Flag Code

Yup, it’s against the Flag Code to use the American Flag to support anything. And at many American Indian Powwows you’re likely to see one or more old women, during Veterans’ Songs, dancing in the Arena holding folded flags as cushions supporting a picture of a young man (or, nowadays, maybe a woman) in uniform, and some medals & ribbons. If you go out there and complain about her disrespect,… I’m nor sure, but I think I’d go out and bash you alongside the head: I’m a Veteran who spent about 8 months On The Line in Korea, c. 1951 and have become a Grumpy Old Man who might do things like that.

And yeah, the kid did something stupid. 14-year-olds do things like that. The School Principal did something more stupid, and is old enough to know better.

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