A 16-year-old student from Pennsylvania is suing the Lebanon School District, claiming they punished him for refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance.
The student, only named “X.F.” in the lawsuit since he’s a minor, says that he doesn’t want to stand for the Pledge due to his “religious and political beliefs.” That act of defiance began last October. He “sat quietly and respectfully, causing no disturbance,” but his teacher told him he had to stand up. When X.F. said no, he was sent to the office of Assistant Principal Dave Bentz.
Bentz told X.F. the same thing: He had to stand for the Pledge… in part because that’s how teachers determined “whether students are in compliance with the District’s dress code.”
X.F. never had any dress code issues, but he offered to stand for that before or after the Pledge. Apparently that wasn’t good enough. He was given an “in-school suspension” every time he failed to stand for the Pledge — and therefore the dress code check.
That meant he missed his first period math class every day… and, lo and behold, he eventually failed the class.
Even when the Principal and an Assistant Superintendent were brought in to discuss the issue, no one had the good sense to say his Pledge refusal was perfectly legal.
That’s why the kid is suing.
The District’s violations of X.F.’s rights have caused him to suffer stigma and embarrassment. Each day that the school enforced its policy, he was singled out and humiliated in front of his peers, and he was forced to languish in a segregated, In-School Suspension classroom for exercising his rights.
The District’s violations of X.F.’s rights have caused him to suffer stress and anxiety. During the period the District enforced its policy, he would enter school anxious and distressed about his first period class.
The District should be worried. It appears that X.F. was following the law perfectly and the adults in the room had no clue what they were doing. No one has to stand for or say the Pledge, and no one can be punished for refusing to participate in the government prayer. Administrators can pretend this was about the “dress code policy” all they want, but X.F. gave them options and they didn’t accept anything.
The district didn’t issue any public comment on this story, which is typical, but what possible defense could they have? There’s no defense for what they did if these allegations are accurate.
This is an open/shut case, and it should go in favor of the student. It’s just that simple.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Mike for the link)