(Update: Friday's Times-News has an update on the charges filed against Mr. Luker.)
With charges being filed today against former Minico High School ESL teacher Dan Luker for mutilating the American flag, I can't help but shake my head at the absolute chaos ensuing in the Mini-Cassia area recently.
As you might remember, in May, Minico teacher Clint Straatman caused quite a stir when he took a small, Mexican flag from a student and threw it in the garbage. Both publicly and privately Straatman said the flag was a disturbance in the classroom and that he did not intend to disrespect the student or the Latino community. Later that day, in the administrative offices, Luker, who has since resigned, reacted to the Straatman situation by throwing an American flag on the ground, breaking it from its wooden stem. Luker is being charged with defacing the American flag, a direct challenge to a previous ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Luker contends that his growing frustration with the unequal treatment of Hispanic students at Minico High School resulted in his "inappropriate" actions.
The fact that Luker has since resigned over this ordeal and Straatman received nothing more than a slap on the wrist speaks volumes to the unequal treatment of the Hispanic community in the Mini-Cassia area. Imagine my surprise when I read "teacher charged in flag incident" and the man being charged wasn't Straatman.
After all, it was Straatman's actions and the suggestion of Kim Lee, of the Lee Family Broadcasting Company, that caused the silent protest of nearly fifty Hispanic students, the arrest of one student, and the subsequent absence from school of some white students. Luker was merely voicing his continued frustration that Scott Rogers, superintendent of the Minidoka County School District, and other school administrators were allowing for continued inequity among the district's students.
The existence of contempt between these communities and the continued hatred being thrown back and forth appears to be more evident now than when I was a young kid growing up in Burley and Declo. It appears to be fueled by an irresponsible radio station owner, Kim Lee, who continues to allow for hate speech to be aired and community sponsors who pay for the air time that allows for that very hatred to be spread throughout our communities.
For all its complexities, this situation in south central Idaho stopped being about free speech and expression when racial epithets started being thrown around and our youngest community members' educations began being threatened.