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By dawn’s early light, you can see a massive American flag flying on the grounds at Clark Elementary School. At twilight’s last gleaming, too. And any other time of day or night.

It’s always flying, in fact—-though not really from a flagpole. The school’s flag is attached to a 10-story cellphone tower owned by Sprint. The telecommunications giant pays the D.C. school system to lease space for its towers and tries disguising them as flagpoles so as to avoid a perilous fight with all those folks who think cell phones and cell phone towers pose a health risk. The phone company gave Clark a bigger flag for the really big pole only after City Paper wrote about the situation last year, and the really broad stripes and bright stars have been flying over Petworth ever since.

According to the American Legion, which fancies itself the Miss Manners of flag etiquette, flags are supposed to raised at sun-up and be taken down at sundown except in circumstances where “a patriotic effect is desired,” in which case the flag must be “illuminated properly.” Proper llumination means “a light specifically placed to illuminate the flag (preferred) or having a light source sufficient to illuminate the flag so it is recognizable as such by the casual observer.”

Perhaps since it’s really not a flagpole, Clark and Sprint figure there’s no need to abide by standard flag rules. Because other than the moon and passing headlights from cars on Kansas Avenue NW, the big flag goes unlit. The around-the-clock display has taken its toll: the Sprint flag is already in tatters. If a flag is no longer capable of gallantly streaming, it shan’t be flown. Instead, says the Legion, they “should be destroyed, preferably by burning.”