Well, that was fast.
Earlier this week, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the Elmira City School District in New York after an atheist student was threatened with punishment for not standing up during the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Superintendent Hillary Austin, to her credit, took action the moment she heard about the problem, sending a short statement to the media and emailing all district staffers to remind them of the law:
As a general matter, the District is very well aware of each student’s right under United States Supreme Court and Second Circuit Court of Appeals precedent to decline participation in the Pledge. The District also welcomes community dialogue on freedom of speech, civic engagement, and the right to be free from political compulsion.
The district’s email to staff outlined the following points:
— Students cannot be compelled to salute the flag, recite the pledge, or even stand in silence.
— Students cannot be excluded from the room during the pledge.
— Students must be permitted to sit quietly during the pledge.
There are actually several more points that Austin made, but you get the idea.
As usual, critics online are arguing that not standing is somehow unpatriotic or a sign of disrespect. They just need to be reminded that a silent protest is completely patriotic. Not all traditions need to be continued and this is a particularly obnoxious one for many students. Students who want to will still get to say the Pledge every morning, but Austin’s email just puts her district in line with every other public school district in the country.
I still don’t know who the sophomore was who alerted the AHA to this problem, but here’s a public thank you to her, whoever she is. I hope the problem is resolved now and she doesn’t face any backlash as a result.
(Image via Shutterstock)