SACRAMENTO — A teacher who burned a flag in front of his sixth-graders and referred to the nation as “United Snakes” in what he called an example of “revolutionary teaching” could lose his job.
The classroom incident, which occurred a week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has infuriated school district officials and parents, who said Tuesday that he should be fired.
“He shouldn’t even be working in the school district if he’s going to be thinking like that,” says Myeshia Dunson. “That scares the kids. It’s not good.”
Second-year teacher Kory Grant Clift, 25, described by some parents as an excellent teacher who showed poor judgment, has apologized for the Sept. 18 incident in which he partially burned an American flag in front of 30 students.
Clift allegedly set fire to a corner of the flag and said, “I can’t burn it all, because that’s illegal.” He also told his students, “Babylon is burning,” according to officials at Del Paso Heights Elementary School District.
Carl Mack, the district’s superintendent, announced Tuesday that he has notified Clift that he had come to a decision about his career status that will take effect in 30 days, and that Clift can appeal to the school board.
Clift’s future remained shrouded Tuesday as the school district and its attorneys declined further comment, citing “confidentiality.” The California Teachers Association provided him with an attorney, Carolyn Langenkamp, who also declined comment.
This is the second time this year Clift has been on administrative leave with pay. Last spring, he was placed on leave for placing a child in a closet for disciplinary reasons, district officials said.
Clift did not return messages left at his home Tuesday. In a statement released by a friend, he said he was sorry about the negative attention the flag-burning brought to his school district. He also said it remains his goal to teach.
The U.S. Supreme Court often has ruled that flag burning is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
But many parents believe he should lose his job for making such a statement in a classroom at North Avenue Elementary School.
“If he really did that on purpose, then what is right needs to be done,” said Jimmy Yang.
The teacher is also on probation for a 1998 run-in with a Sacramento police officer. Court records show he pleaded no contest in April 1999 to a misdemeanor count of using threats and violence to deter a policeman from performing his duties. He received 240 days of community service and three years of probation.
He is a 2000 graduate of California Sate University, Sacramento, but has no teaching credential, according to the California Commission on Teaching Credentialing.