Earlier this month, I posted about a teacher physically lifting a student out of his seat because he wouldn’t stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance. It happened to a first-grader in the New Town Public School District in North Dakota.
When the child has attempted to sit out the Pledge, however, he has been instructed by his teacher to stand — even physically lifted out of his chair – at the risk of disciplinary or retaliatory measures if he refused to stand. When [parents Jesse Moore and Kristina Leiffer] intervened to point out that their child cannot be forced to stand, their concerns were treated dismissively by both the teacher (a Mrs. Miller) and, subsequently, by [Principal Daniel] Anderson. In fact, to make matters worse, the child has now been instructed to stand outside the classroom — a public reprimand and humiliation that is totally unwarranted and unlawful — during the Pledge exercise.
So it wasn’t just about the physical force used to get the student to stand during the Pledge; the alternative was that he would have to stand outside, drawing even more unwanted attention in his direction.
As I’m sure you can understand, the School District has not previously dealt with the situation of a student choosing to not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. Upon receiving your letter, the District obtained legal advice and as of last week has refrained from removing the student from the room while the other students participate in the Pledge exercise. The student has since remained in the classroom and has remained seated during this time each school day.
I’m sure they’re just covering their butts here — do you really need “legal advice” to know that forcing students to stand up during the Pledge or telling them to leave the classroom if they don’t want to say it is inappropriate? — but they did the right thing.
“In allowing students to exercise their right to sit out the Pledge, the school district is respecting all children, including humanist and other nontheist children who may object to the phrase ‘under God,’” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.
A lot of thanks go to the six-year-old student for what I’m sure wasn’t an easy thing to do and to the parents Jesse Moore and Kristina Leiffer for not just telling their son to go along with the crowd.
The more these cases are made public, the faster school officials learn that they’re not going to get away with breaking the law.
(Image via Shutterstock)