It’s Not Disrespectful to Remain Seated During the Pledge of Allegiance September 17, 2015

It’s Not Disrespectful to Remain Seated During the Pledge of Allegiance

How many teachers and administrators still don’t understand how the Pledge of Allegiance works?

No student has to say it or stand up for it, and not participating in the ritual doesn’t make you unpatriotic or disrespectful. And yet the stories of schools where kids get punished by ignorant teachers are all over the place.

These cases are all in my inbox today:

In California’s Lakewood High School:

[A senior student] was threatened with punishment after she exercised her right to opt out of the Pledge. When the student’s father contacted the school’s assistant principal to resolve the issue, his concerns were not adequately addressed by the high school administration, which seemed to have no idea that the student’s rights had been violated.

… On Monday, September 14, after she remained seated during the recitation, she was confronted by her teacher, Mr. Gjonovich, who wanted to know why she was opting out. Even though she was under no obligation to explain her decision, the student respectfully told the teacher that she did not believe in pledging and was exercising her right not to do so. Nevertheless, the teacher told the student that her decision was “disrespectful” and told her that she must stand in the future.

In Delaware’s Delcastle Technical High School:

This year, when the student quietly remained seated for the Pledge, his teacher, Amy Dunn, insisted he stand up for the Pledge and when he refused, she demanded that he stay in the classroom after class was over. After class, Ms. Dunn admonished the student, telling him that he is required to stand up during the Pledge and that it is “disrespectful” to remain seated. She threatened the student with punishment if he remained seated again. Afterwards, Ms. Dunn approached the student in the hallway, in front of his peers, to tell the student publicly that he was disrespectful to her and to his fellow classmates for remaining seated.

The student informed Ms. Dunn that he is not legally required to stand up for the Pledge but she erroneously insisted that the law required him to stand. Worse, the student sought advice from several other teachers on the issue, and most of them told the student that he had to stand for the Pledge. The student reports that several of his friends also wish to remain seated but that in light of Ms. Dunn’s actions, they are too afraid to sit down during the Pledge.

In Florida’s Hobbs Middle School:

The student has been forced by a teacher to continue to stand and participate in the daily ritual of the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom in front of the student’s classmates despite his request that he be allowed to remain seated. The teacher has refused to allow the student to remain seated and has wrongfully embarrassed and mistreated this student for exercising his constitutional right to opt out of the Pledge. Further, this student is autistic and identified as requiring special accommodation for his educational needs; the student is fearful of angering his teacher who has tried to persuade the student to change his mind about participating in the Pledge. When the parents contacted school officials on September 4, 2015, about this issue, they were told that Florida law supersedes the student’s constitutional rights and the student must stand for the Pledge.

The American Humanist Association and American Atheists‘ legal departments have sent letters to the districts in question. AA has received a letter promising a resolution in their case (the Florida one) while the AHA awaits responses in the other two.

It’s really incredible how many times we see the same situation popping up. Teachers should be reminded about Pledge rules at the beginning of the year, that way if they don’t follow them, they can be reprimanded properly. Pleading ignorance, after all the Pledge cases we’ve seen, is just appalling at this point.

(Image via Shutterstock)


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