A 13-year-old Virginia Beach, Va. boy received an in-school suspension after a teacher reported he wiped his hands on an American flag, WKTR-TV reported.
Moses Hinton's family, however, claims he was unfairly targeted because he's black.
"A teacher observed a student who recently returned from the restroom using the American flag as a hand towel. The student indicated to the teacher that there were no paper towels in the restroom," Plaza Middle School spokeswoman Eileen Cox told WAVY-TV.
But the family's attorney, Wayne Scriven, said that's not what happened. He told the station he asked the student, "Did you wash your hands when you went to the restroom? He said I did. He said there weren't any paper towels, so I dried them on my pants before I started walking back."
His mother, Victoria Hinton, said her son told her what happened next: "Mommy, I was coming up the stairs and I lost my balance and I touched the flag."
Hinton told WAVY the flag didn't fall over or sustain any damage. She said her son is the only black student in his 7th grade honors class and believes he was singled out.
“[This has been] very traumatic,” Hinton told WKTR. “It has had an emotional impact on my son’s education.”
She said she believes officials overreacted: "Why didn't you just take him aside and first ask him, 'Hey, is everything okay?' and then proceed by saying, 'well, you know, the American Flag is something we respect and we hold very high in our country, so you know, just keep that in mind.'"
School officials are standing by their punishment, saying Hinton "was disciplined in accordance with the Code of Student Conduct."