PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A city school administrator was placed on leave for throwing a Dominican flag to the floor and stepping on it during an impromptu student celebration of Dominican Independence Day last week.
Robert Perkins, a vice principal, acknowledged Wednesday that he grabbed the flag from two students in a Roger Williams Middle School hallway and threw it on the floor. He also acknowledged stepping on the flag, but said he did it only because he was under stress from unrelated school problems.
"It had nothing to do with the Dominican kids, nothing to do with me being angry because of the flag," Perkins told The Associated Press. "It could have been a U.S. flag in my hands. It could have been a wad of paper in my hands. I had had it. I had been up to my neck that day. I was stressed out to the max. It could have been a baby in my hand."
Perkins, who described himself as the "major disciplinarian of the school," said he was overwhelmed all day Friday because he had been dealing with teacher complaints about student behavior and absences. He encountered the celebration in a hallway during school hours, took the flag from two students and later threw it to the floor in what Perkins called a "fit of rage" unrelated to the celebration.
"I believe I stepped on the flag," Perkins said.
Ysaura Paulino said her 14-year-old son told her that Perkins said the only flag he wanted to see in the school was the American flag. Perkins denied saying that.
The Providence Public School District would not release details of what happened. But Superintendent Thomas Brady said Perkins showed a lack of judgment and cultural sensitivity and had been placed on paid leave after district officials reviewed a videotape.
Perkins was asked to leave the school on Tuesday.
State Rep. Grace Diaz, who is from the Dominican Republic, said the schools need to be "more sensitive to cultural and ethnic populations they serve."