Panel OKs flags in schools

DENVER — The Senate Education Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would allow the permanent display of foreign flags in schools, other public buildings and Denver International Airport.

House Bill 1050 would, however, ban a foreign flag on a permanent flagpole on the grounds of a school or other government building.

The bill was sent to the Senate on a 5-1 vote, with only Sen. Josh Penry, R-Fruita, opposed.

Penry argued that the bill risks creating further confusion about the rules governing the display of foreign flags.

"This is not any sort of seismic struggle," Penry said. "We're just trying to figure out how to put the flags up in buildings. I don't see any additional clarity yet."

Last year, a teacher at a Jefferson County school was required to remove several flags of other nations on display in his classroom, and a principal at another school ordered the removal of all the flags in the school's gym, including the American flag, because he was concerned that the school was in violation of the law.

Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, said the bill is needed to assure teachers and school districts that the use of another nation's flag for instructional purposes is not against Colorado law.

"You can do whatever you want in your classroom, as long as it's within the school district's policy," Windels said.

The bill allows school districts discretion to set their own rules about whether to allow foreign flags to be hung inside school buildings.

But Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder and a former social studies teacher, insisted that school boards should not have the authority to prohibit a teacher from using another nation's flag in the classroom.

"I think you'd be abdicating your responsibility not to have a flag flying" in a social studies classroom, Tupa said.

Representatives of several veterans groups and a retired Army officer praised the bill, noting that it also removes uncertainty about whether the POW-MIA flag can be flown at public buildings and makes clear that the American flag must be flown in a manner consistent with the federal flag code.

Several high school students also testified in support of the bill. They asked legislators to consider that exposure to the flags of other countries is educationally beneficial and teaches respect for people of other nationalities.

"Flags on display are for educational purposes and not as an act of rebellion," said Johnny Valencia, a student at Gateway High School.

The bill now moves to the Senate.



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