More than ten years ago, Uniondale High School (NY) health teacher Steven Solomon noticed two students who weren’t standing up during the Pledge of Allegiance. In a Facebook post made last month, and which has since been deleted, he said he failed those students in part due to their refusal to be what he deemed properly patriotic.
The school district has put him on indefinite leave (with pay) while they conduct an investigation.
“These kids failed themselves,” said Solomon, of North Merrick, who has taught in the district for 30 years.
“They had a 63 or 62… less than passing,” Solomon said. “They did not stand for the pledge. That was part of the component, and it’s the teacher’s discretion at that point whether they want to pass them or not,” he said in an interview. “But if a kid doesn’t stand for the pledge, who said he doesn’t care if these military people live or die, who doesn’t respect his peers and is a discipline problem in the classroom — why should I reward this kid?”
Discipline and participation can be factors in grading, but controversial political opinions and refusing to stand for the Pledge are never acceptable reasons to lower (or threaten to lower) students’ grades. Solomon admitted their Pledge stance played a role, and that’s the reason he’s in trouble. He didn’t help his case in an interview this week:
“I didn’t make them stand. They didn’t stand. They sat,” he said. “I encouraged them to stand and I said your standing is just a respect for the country, the flag and for the military people that risked their lives to fight to protect your freedom.”
He’s wrong again. Exercising one’s right not to stand for the Pledge is a way of showing respect for the country. Many students do it because it’s wrong to say we’re a nation “under God” when so many Americans are non-religious or non-Christian. Some refuse to stand because they know we don’t really have “liberty and justice for all” and they don’t want to pretend otherwise. Calling attention to that, in the hopes of improving the situation, is a way to show your love for the country, because you know it can get better.
That said, I don’t know why those students were seated. It could have been an act of civil disobedience. It also could’ve been flat-out laziness. It doesn’t matter. Solomon had no business punishing them for it. And he’s an idiot to brag about it now.
The District has correctly suspended him, albeit with pay, and “suspended [him] from his duties as a union representative.” But if the students really did fail the course because their teacher held a personal grudge against their beliefs, he doesn’t deserve to be in the classroom.
We don’t know who those students were, or how they were affected by the failing grade, but I hope they know their actions a decade ago are still being felt today.
(Thanks to @tyoungs for the link)