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Source: Lansing State Journal
Date: March 25, 2008
Byline: John Schneider

48-star flag now history in Eastern gym

For a basketball team, 48 out of 50 is excellent. But for an American flag, it's so half a century ago.

Recently, I got this e-mail from Doug Beechem, who lives in Woodhull Township in Shiawassee County:

"I attended the quarterfinal at Eastern High School. Is there any reason why their flag on the wall (at Don Johnson Fieldhouse) has 48 stars? It seems like almost 50 years is enough time to change over."

In fact, there is a reason, but it's not necessarily one you'd want to run up the flagpole.

The story of the 48-star flag, as told by Lansing Schools spokesman Steve Serkaian:

The 50-star flag hanging on the field house wall had become old and faded. An Eastern parent with honorable intentions supplied a clean, "newer" flag earlier this year. Grateful school officials installed the flag, never noticing that it gave back Alaska and Hawaii.

Serkaian said school officials received "a number of contacts" regarding the missing stars. Apparently, Beechem's e-mail was the final straw. The 48-star flag is history — in more ways than one — and the modern version is on order. Meanwhile, a smaller, 50-star flag is on display in the gym.

No flag violation

Serkaian took pains to point out that flying the 48-star flag, though perhaps peculiar, was not a violation of flag etiquette.

"In and of itself," Serkaian said, "it was not an inappropriate flag to hang."

And, indeed, he's correct on that point. No less an authority than the Betsy Ross Homepage (www.ushistory.org/betsy/flag etiq.html) addresses the issue squarely.

"Question: "Is it appropriate to fly a flag that has fewer than 50 stars?

"Answer: Yes. Official United States flags are always considered living, active flags. From the Betsy Ross flag to the present 50-star flag, any flag that at some time was the currently active flag is still considered a living flag to be accorded all due respect."

On the other hand, the flag at Don Johnson was never intended as a historical statement, and Serkaian, while declining to acknowledge that an outdated flag at a school — outside a history class — is a mistake, did admit that, in the context of a gym, a 50-star flag is "more appropriate."

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