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A Cumberland County high school history teacher has been suspended after he stepped on an American flag as part of a history lesson on Monday.

Lee Francis, a history teacher at Massey Hill Classical High School in Fayetteville, was pictured standing over an American flag at the front of the class, which caused some students to get very upset and leave the classroom.

“I put the flag on the ground and I took two steps with my right foot and I said, ‘This is an example of free speech,'” Francis said. “Two students got up and left immediately with no word, no disruption at all…I assumed something had happened. One student came to where I was and took the flag from me.”

Francis has been suspended with pay in connection with the incident until he meets with Superintendent Dr. Frank Till on Thursday.

Francis, who has relatives in the military, said he did not intend to offend students, but wanted to drive home the Supreme Court’s definition of free speech.