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Law forces schools into flag chase
Published December 7, 2004
ORLANDO - More than 15,000 American flags need to be replaced in public school classrooms in Central Florida by the end of the school year because they are smaller than a new state law requires.
The law, requiring every Florida public classroom to display an American flag, includes a 3-by-2-foot size requirement. Many flags used in classrooms aren't that large.
"We already had flags in every classroom," said Richard Wells, Seminole County's school district spokesman. "They just weren't the ones specified by the law."
Because the law says districts should "attempt to acquire the flag through donation or fundraising," many schools have spent the fall looking to community groups and businesses to pay for the flags.
In Seminole County, Bank of America has agreed to donate half of the 4,000 flags the district needs, at a cost of about $4 each, Wells said.
Lawmakers estimate there are 156,000 kindergarten-to-12th-grade Florida classrooms.
"Had the school districts come to us, and said, "We have suitable flags,' I would have had no problem grandfathering them in," said state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who led the drive for the law.
The law is known as the Carey Baker Freedom Flag Act, named for the Eustis lawmaker who served a year in Iraq.
Fasano said he would be surprised if any school had to buy flags on its own.
Carl Persis, principal of Ormond Beach Middle School in Volusia County, said fundraising is needed right now for more serious projects such as collecting holiday food for the needy and lending a hand to hurricane victims.
Volusia schools need 3,300 new flags, or about $15,000 worth. The most popular classroom flag size in Volusia now is 12 inches by 18 inches, district officials said.
"I really do think it's just a total waste of effort and money," Persis said. "We already have flags. It's not the size of the flag that matters, it's the idea that students are aware of what the words mean in the Pledge of Allegiance and that they stand every morning and express themselves and recite the pledge."