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DKH_07 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?

5 Responses to “Educating the educators about flag protocol”

  1. Pauline says:

    I would expect most people to be open to polite correction in this area. People generally fly the flag because they want to show respect for it as a symbol of their country. I would certainly want to know if I was doing it wrong, and I would think other people would also.

    It sounds like the situation you describe is one where there is a lot of history behind it, and the person you talked to is probably tired of the ongoing problem and very sensitive about it.

    People will tend to be defensive when they’re told they’ve been doing something wrong, especially something that is by design open to public view. But the contact person for a school or business, usually a receptionist, is used to taking information to pass along to the person with the responsibility and authority to do something, and I think most would take it in the spirit it is given.

    An individual flying a flag in front of a private house is another matter. I still think that most would want to learn to fly the flag correctly, but there are all sorts of people and some will not take criticism of any kind well.

  2. Pauline, thank you for writing. I appreciate your thoughtful and encouraging words. Maybe I need to create a little brochure that I could give to people. Deborah

  3. Dave J. says:

    I was thinking a brochure, too.

    The problem is, and Larry and I have discussed before about other issues, is finding who is truly responsible. The secretary may buy flags, the janitor puts it up the flag, and the admin office calls for every half-staff change. But no one is really responsible for the whole process, I am guessing.

  4. You are bang on the mark, Dave.
    And I think I will start designing a brochure. Won’t Larry be surprised!

  5. Leslie says:

    Help for my tangled flag!
    Great blog and information on proper flag protocol however, I need some help! I can’t keep my flag from tangling. I have bought everything I can find on the market, but everyday I’m outside unwrapping my flag to get it straight. I’m getting too old and tired getting out my ladder everyday to untangle it. Does anyone know of a solution to my problem. There is nothing worse than seeing an American Flag all tangled up on a flagpole.

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