A disabled veteran claims he lost his custodial job at a South Dakota school after uploading a video on Facebook of an American flag that he said had been mishandled by another school employee.
School officials confirmed he was no longer employed, but not because of the Facebook posting.
Cesar Zakahi of Fort Pierre, an Air Force veteran, said the Stanley County School District fired him Monday when he brought attention to the mishandling on Facebook, actions which he claims to have witnessed numerous times before.
"I was fired from this job for telling friends on Facebook about a co-worker throwing our flags the US, and southdakota (sic) flags in a heap like rags," wrote Zakahi.
In the video clip, a crumpled American flag is shown placed on a boiler in the school's basement.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars advocates that when flags are not being flown they should be neatly folded and stored in a clean area.
School Superintendent Don Hotalling confirmed that Zakahi is no longer employed by the school district and said the firing had nothing to do with the video, according to the news website Argus Leader
"All I can say is, whoever arranged that flag in that condition should be ashamed of themselves
," Hotalling told S.D.'s KIKN.com. "But I have no evidence that it was one of our current employees,"
Zakahi has since hired Sioux Falls attorney Joel Arends in an attempt to get his job back.
"He’s (Zakahi) very adamant about treating the flag with respect," Arends told the Argus Leader. "He’s had friends who have been killed in combat, in Iraq and other wars. He’s relayed to me he’s seen the flag on their coffins, and feels the way the flag is being treated in this case is very disrespectful."
Arends added that Zakahi was not seeking a drawn out legal battle with the district and that he only wants his job back.
"He’s an all-around good guy who is sticking up for his values and doing what he thinks is right," Arends added.
According to the attorney, defiling a U.S. flag is a misdemeanor in S.D. and carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Responding to the escalating controversy, Sarah Carter, Stanley County school board president, released a statement on the school's website.
"We have tremendous respect for each flag and take this allegation very seriously," the statement said.
"The Stanley County School District stands behind its decisions and adamantly denies any allegation that the personnel decision was based on reporting of any mishandling of either flag."
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