Back in February, a middle school teacher in Colorado assaulted a student who didn’t want to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. We didn’t know many details, but the incident was serious enough that Angevine Middle School Physical Education teacher Karen Smith, who had worked in the same district for 20 years, was put on paid administrative leave until the investigation into her actions was complete.
It was only later that we learned what happened: When the student refused to stand, which was well within his rights, Smith “forced him to his feet by his jacket and removed him from the classroom.”
No wonder she was charged with child abuse — recklessly and with injury — as well as third-degree assault.
Last week, she accepted a plea deal that will effectively put an end to her teaching career:
Karen Smith, 60, pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to one count of child abuse resulting in injury, according to Boulder County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Catherine Olguin.
Smith was sentenced to an 18-month deferred sentence, which means the guilty plea will be withdrawn if she can fulfill the terms of the sentence and avoid another criminal case during that time.
An additional charge of third-degree assault was dropped by prosecutors as a condition of the plea agreement.
That agreement includes her willingness to retire immediately, though it’s possible she could teach again after the 18-month sentence is over.
Whether or not you think it’s a harsh enough punishment, at least the lesson is clear: Students can always remain seated during the Pledge, end of story. No teacher can punish a student who doesn’t want to participate in the mindless ritual.
Smith isn’t the only teacher who’s gone overboard in assaulting students in the name of faux-patriotism. Last September, a middle school student in Michigan claimed a staffer “snatche[d] me out of my chair violently” after he sat during the Pledge. Similar incidents occurred in North Dakota in 2014 and Illinois in 2016.
Remember: Forced patriotism isn’t true patriotism. Students who take a stand against a ritual like the Pledge are displaying far more understanding of their freedoms than the kids who say the Pledge without even giving it a second thought.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)