Many parents and members of the community were upset when a letter sent to members of each varsity sports teams at Londonderry High School regarding the upcoming Fall Pep Rally surfaced on Facebook.
The letter, sent by English teacher Steven Juster and the Pep Rally Team, was dated Sept. 10, outlined the pep rally entrance protocols for teams. The rules were made so that “no one in the audience should feel uncomfortable,” as stated in the opening paragraph of the letter, and included things that many schools also prohibit: Undressing during the events, derogatory statements, questionable phrases on clothing or written on the body.
These were not the main concern of the parents and residents of Londonderry, however. The last item on the list was what was being questioned: “NO use of the American flag. Do not wear/carry/present the American flag on the floor.”
After taking to Facebook, many parents said they would call the principal to complain, some mentioned going higher up by sending letters to the state government.
Both Londonderry School District Superintendent Scott Laliberte and Londonderry High School Principle Jason Parent responded quickly, sending out emails to parents and students clarifying what the original letter meant.
According to Laliberte, the memo was a misunderstanding: “It was not our intention to ban the use of the flag at the rally, but instead to limit how students are including the flag in the school event.”
Laliberte mentioned that there have been previous incidents where the flag has been presented, but “in a manner not consistent with the American Legion Flag Code.”
In November of 2012, one such incident occurred in which the flag was used as a matador cape to present members of the track team.
According to a Letter to the Editor of Lancer Spirit, the student run newspaper, jointly written by science teacher and former Army Officer Anthony Cariello, PC Specialist and former Marine Mr. Sampson, Londonderry High School alumni and Airforce Officer Laura Curro, and private citizen Greg Demeule, an “overzealous” individual tackled the student who was holding the flag to the ground.
The Letter to the Editor referenced Title 4 United States Code 8, Respect for the Flag: “The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise… The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.”
“The neglect of this code reflects the lack of understanding that some have about the principles of this nation,” they wrote.
The flag was also mishandled at last year’s pep rally, according to Parent.
To avoid repeating any disrespect to the American Flag, whether it be inadvertent or intentional, the school felt it important to limit how the students are including the flag in the school event.
“United States Military Veterans on our staff at the time expressed concern over proper flag etiquette and standards of respect,” Parent wrote. “The nature of the team entrances into the gym does not lend itself to proper handling of the flag.”
This does not mean that students cannot bring American flags to the rally – students just can’t use them during the introductions of the sports teams, or display them disrespectfully.
Both Laliberte and Parent insured that the flag will be prominently displayed on the gymnasium wall at the event and the singing of the National Anthem will kickstart the event.
Laliberte hopes his and Parent’s emails clarified the expectations for the students regarding the flag.
“This was a teachable moment for all of us,” he wrote. “If parents have any questions, they can reach out to my office at 432-6920.”