Eric Hamlin, a middle school geography teacher in Jefferson County, Colorado, received a letter of reprimand his very first week of class. The reason? He displayed the flags of Mexico, China and the United Nations in his classroom as teaching aids, as he has always done throughout his geography-teaching career.
Hamlin was told to take the flags down by the assistant principal. She said it was Jefferson County School District policy that he could not display the flags. Hamlin said he took issue with that, and an hour later, she returned, saying it was actually state law, and she handed him the statute:
Any person who displays any flag other than the flag of the United States of America or the state of Colorado or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or institutions upon any state, county, municipal, or other public building or adjacent grounds within this state commits a class 1 petty offense.
However, the statute does include an exception for “a temporary display of any instructional or historical materials not permanently affixed or attached to any part of the buildings.” Apparently, the word “instructional” is a new one to the administration at Hamlin’s school. When he pointed it out, he was told that the flags “seemed permanent.”
The principal then told Hamlin to take the flags down, which he refused to do. He was then given the letter of reprimand, and told that he could regain his good standing if her would agree not to display flags of foreign nations, and always obtain administrative approval for any classroom displays he put up. Hamlin refused, and was placed on administrative leave.
Once the news media learned about the incident, things changed. School and county officials agreed to “allow” Hamlin to rotate the flags on a temporary basis, which is what he has done for his entire career. Hamlin resigned from his job, but said that he feels bad for the principal, who is getting “unfair” emails, calling him “Nazi and things like that.”