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Friday, February 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Veteran airs concerns to school board after flag flies at full staff on Memorial Day

A student walks out the front entrance of Lewis and Clark High School near the WWI Memorial plaque on Thursday, March 30, 2017. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
A student walks out the front entrance of Lewis and Clark High School near the WWI Memorial plaque on Thursday, March 30, 2017. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

When Stephen Latoszek drove by Lewis and Clark High School on Memorial Day, he was shocked and saddened.

The flag was not at half-staff.

“I retired after 20 years in the Air Force,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of my friends died. And a lot of them are out there at the Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake. It’s rather personal.”

Latoszek, a retired technical sergeant, said his squadron commander died in a B-52 crash at Fairchild Air Force Base.

Latoszek addressed the Spokane Public Schools Board of Directors Wednesday, raising his concerns. In a written statement to the board Latoszek asked board members to “reflect on what I have said and ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Mark Anderson, the district’s associate superintendent, said the district follows notifications sent by the state regarding when they should lower flags. The notifications are sent by Gov. Jay Inslee’s officer and are mandatory for all state agencies.

Because the school district isn’t a state agency, Anderson said they don’t have to follow the recommendations, although mostly they do. However, in the case of Memorial Day, Anderson said because school was closed they didn’t lower the flag.

“We just didn’t have someone come in on overtime to lower it,” Anderson said.

Most schools raise and lower the flags every morning and evening, in accordance with flag etiquette that requires it not be flown overnight. However, Lewis and Clark’s flagpole is artificially lit, which means they can keep the flag up all the time.

Central Valley School District follows a similar procedure as Spokane Public Schools, said spokeswoman Marla Nunberg.

Latoszek said he finds the overtime defense insulting. At the Wednesday board meeting he recommended school staff leave the flag at half-staff over the weekend prior to holidays where schools are closed.

“So, if the respect of the fallen soldiers is down to overtime then that’s a problem,” he said. “That’s a serious, fundamental problem.”

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