There has been a roaring debate over the decision of the New Orleans city council to tear down all Confederate era statues, which many have argued is wiping out history rather than dealing with it. The most controversial decision is the removal of the iconic statue of Robert E. Lee in the downtown. One casualty of that debate is Nicholas Dean, principal of Crescent Leadership Academy, who was forced out of his post merely because he went to see the historic change and was pictured with a Confederate flag in the background. Not his flag, mind you. Just a Confederate flag held by a protester.
Ironically, Dean was only on the scene briefly around 2:30 am to see the statue go down but left when there was no movement by the construction crew. However, the flag in the background led to outrage for those at the alternative school serving students in seventh through 12th grades who have been expelled from other schools. Dean aptly noted “I went to see history in the making and now I am history.”
Malik Bartholomew shared the photograph and denounced Dean: “Why is this man, a principal of a school of black and minority students, advocating for monuments of hate?”
I have previously written about concerns that public employees are increasingly being disciplined for actions in their private lives or views or associations outside of work. We have previously seen teachers (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) students (here, here and here) and other public employees (here and here and here) fired for their private speech or conduct, including school employees fired for posing in magazines (here), appearing on television shows in bikinis (here), or having a prior career in the adult entertainment industry (here).
Of course, this is not even a case of a public employee flying a Confederate flag, which we recently discussed (here and here). This is a case of merely being seen in front of a flag. Even if a teacher were protesting the removal of the statue, why shouldn’t teachers be afforded such free speech protections? There is a growing assumption the public employees must now conform their political and social media views to satisfy the community as a condition of public employment. Most teachers have made sacrifices financially to teach. Few thought that they also had to surrender free speech rights in the bargain.