Daily routines at Denair Unified School sites have been disrupted, to say the least. A community and media maelstrom has surrounded Denair Middle School and eighth grade student Cody Alicea after he was told by a campus employee to remove the American flag from his bicycle on Nov. 8.
The television media was alerted to the situation and the school district’s initial support of the employee’s decision to ask Alicea to remove the flag due to safety concerns by Alicea’s stepfather Robert Kisner.
Since then, the school has been bombarded with angry citizens, concerned parents and those wishing to express patriotic support for Alicea and his right to fly an American flag. Over 1,000 voicemails were left on one phone alone at the school office on Nov. 12, in response to the incident. It has also led to a patriotic parade and rally, and sparked national discourse on First Amendment rights. It has also made teaching and learning in Denair a little more difficult.
“It has changed the Denair culture a little bit,” said Ed Parraz, Denair Unified School District superintendent. “This has had an impact everywhere.”
Parraz said students are tired of cameras being in their faces and teachers are struggling to keep the distraction out of the classroom.
The incident has also added extra expenses to the small school district’s budget, in the form of added security costs. Rank Investigations has been patrolling the schools of Denair since the beginning of this year to help with extra night patrol to stop the increase in vandalism, Parraz said.
“There will be a bill or two for the extra help for security, but it is nothing that will break the bank,” he said.
DUSD held an emergency school board meeting on Sunday to go over potential litigation from a legal group that is a watch dog for First Amendment rights, Parraz said. The one potential litigation seems to be solved and has been the only potential litigation they have received.
“There is no financial obligation at this time,” he said.
But at Thursday’s regular DUSD Board of Trustees meeting, Kisner said “I have no intentions of litigation if things keep moving forward, but if not, I will do what I have to do to make it right.”
Even with the extra bills, the disruptions on campus seem to be the major concern with the media and cameras taking over the education process.
“Our students are just tired of it,” Parraz said. “They just want to come to school and learn. It takes away the integrity of the classroom and it just becomes a disruption with the cameras and lights everywhere.”
To prevent these distractions from happening in the future, Parraz said he is looking into policies and protocols to ensure parents are notified first in extreme situations when safety is a concern.
Also the DUSD Board of Trustees has directed Parraz to look into forming a community committee to help develop concrete protocols. They will be looking into a flag policy as well because they currently do not have one in place.
“We have to find a balance between protecting the First Amendment rights of our students and maintaining their safety,” he said.To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.