Date: October 8, 2008
Byline: Deborah Hendrick
Educating the educators about flag protocol
I have a problem, O Reader, and I need some advice:
How do I how do I gently inform a business, school, or an individual that the their flags are being flown improperly? I don't want to be a busy-body, or the flag police, but honestly — some people just don't know the right way to fly their flags.
(The flags shown at left ARE being flown correctly, but keep reading.)
When someone emails or telephones me for questions and information about flag protocol, I try very hard to give the right answer, and if necessary I will spend hours researching to figure out the protocol. Sometimes the questions — and answers — are very complicated, and I want to get it right.
But if I am NOT asked for my opinion, do I have any right to approach a person, school, or business that is in gross violation of the flag code?
The local elementary school in my neighborhood has consistently failed to properly fly the flags since its new campus opened last year. About two weeks ago, I couldn't stand it anymore and stopped by to visit about the flags.
To establish my bona fides, I identified myself as a flag vendor and further explained that I write about flag etiquette and protocol. The school receptionist I spoke with immediately bristled and informed me that they'd already bought a flag to replace to replace the Texas flag that was getting frayed. I said that I wasn't there to sell the school a flag, but to explain that they were flying the flags incorrectly.
This was obviously another thorny problem because she sighed deeply, and stalked over to look out the windows with a view to the flagpole. "What's wrong?" she demanded to know.
Now I have been as polite as I can possibly be, but if she can't see what's wrong with the school's flag array, then there are multiple problems. I explained that the American flag was not raised all the way to the top of the flagpole (it was about 3 feet short of the top), and that the Texas flag was mounted about four feet further down the hoist rope, so there was this big gap between the two flags. And then I had to tell her that the flags were being flown 24 hours a day without being lighted.
She told me there was nothing she could do about the problem except to make sure the flags were taken down each day. She gave me the business card of a school district administration official and suggested that I contact him. I explained that I had emailed the school district last year, but never received a reply, so she wrote another email address on the back of the business card.
The receptionist's reaction to my appearance indicated that this was an on-going problem. In fact, last year husband Larry stopped in to tell them they were flying the Texas flag upside-down (after weeks and weeks of waiting for them to notice it themselves). I don't know if it was the same woman I spoke with, but she did not seem to understand that flying the Lone Star flag upside-down was a problem.
In the photo above, the flags are being flown correctly. I took it from a university web site's front page. But yesterday, Larry was at this school and the flag array was changed. The U.S. flag was being flown on the center pole, and the Texas flag and school flag were being flown on the outside poles, but about a foot down the poles. How did the school go from what was correct to what was incomprehensible?
I feel justified in approaching a state institution, but what about a private business?
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