Teacher Suspended for Forcing Kid to Say Pledge of Allegiance

A teacher in Florida, apparently completely unaware of the existence of the First Amendment and a Supreme Court ruling that goes back a full seven decades, has been suspended for five days after forcing a child to say the pledge of allegiance and insulting them with jingoism in the process.

As the students recited, teacher Anne Daigle-McDonald took the boy’s wrist and placed his hand over his heart. He protested, pulling his arm down and reminding her he was a Jehovah’s Witness.

“You are an American, and you are supposed to salute the flag,” Daigle-McDonald said, according to a statement the boy gave to a school administrator.

The next day, Daigle-McDonald again placed the boy’s hand over his heart.

She then addressed the class.

“In my classroom, everyone will do the pledge; no religion says that you can’t do the pledge,” several students told a school administrator, according to a report. “If you can’t put your hand on your heart, then you need to move out of the country.”

Unfortunately, this is just plain ignorant:

The issue is one that has cropped up in school districts across the country for decades: Do students have a right to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance?

In the Hernando County School District, the answer is clear: Yes.

The answer is clear everywhere. The Supreme Court settled this in 1943 in West Virginia v Barnette, ruling that the government could not force a child to recite the pledge of allegiance. It’s one of the most famous SCOTUS rulings ever, with one of the most eloquent and memorable passages ever written, by Justice Robert Jackson.

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.

The teacher was suspended five days without pay. Unfortunately, her ignorance remains:

In a conference with Heather Martin, the Hernando district’s executive director of business services, Daigle-McDonald told her version of the story.

She was aware that the boy was a Jehovah’s Witness, but not that he couldn’t say the pledge.

“His mother told me that he didn’t celebrate holidays or birthdays, and I told her that was fine,” the teacher said.

She said that he had been drawing or doodling in previous days. He seemed confused, she said. Some other kids were also not reciting the pledge.

On Sept. 11, the 12-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and western Pennsylvania, she said she didn’t want the boy to be distracted and was worried “the other children might imitate him.”

She said she made statements to the class about reciting the pledge, but never directed them solely at the boy.

Martin told her that nearly all of the students who were interviewed indicated that, on Sept. 12, the day after the first incident, she told the class that those who didn’t want to say the pledge should move back to their home country.

“But that’s not what I said,” Daigle-McDonald responded. “It was directed at citizenship. I was talking about pledging allegiance to our country, and if you don’t want to pledge to our country, you should go to your home country.”

So she’s clearly lying. And even if that were true, it’s still jingoistic stupidity. And it doesn’t matter whether his religion requires him not to say it or not. Any child can refuse to say it for any reason whatsoever.

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  • Ellie

    Listen! If that pledge was good enough for our Founding Fathers, it should be good enough….oh…wait a minute…never mind.

    Hope this woman doesn’t teach Civics.

  • magistramarla

    I wish that my school district had suspended the “teacher” who did the same thing, but that wasn’t going to happen – it was a coach, and it was in Texas.

    Several years ago, I had a foreign exchange student from Spain in my Latin II class.

    The coach who taught her first period PE class forced her to say the pledge several times, and yelled at her, until she complained to her host family and the administration was informed.

    The solution was to switch her PE and Latin classes so that she was in my classroom for first period.

    In my classroom, my students could choose to stay seated, stand quietly, or say the pledge if they desired. Many noticed that I left out the “under god” part, and they did the same.

    During the “moment of silence”, I sat down at my computer and took care of attendance, so that we could start working quickly. Many of my students began doing the same.

    I always worried that an administrator would be watching through the window on the door and would burst in to force everyone to comply, but I was lucky and that never happened.

  • Michael Heath

    The only way the government can continue to protect certain numerated rights of people the gov’t is constitutionally obligated to protect, is to never administrate pledges and prayers.

    So from my perspective even the court’s precedents on this matter is a perfect illustration of a kangaroo court at the highest levels. Rulings which are guaranteed to result in defect outcomes like we see here.

  • whheydt

    One wonders what else this teacher doesn’t know… (Or “knows”, but is wrong about.)

  • iknklast

    My son wasn’t exactly “forced” to say the pledge, but he might as well have been. His history teacher told him that, while he couldn’t force him to say the pledge, if my son did not respect the country, the god, and the sacrifices of the teacher (who was a veteran), he didn’t have any requirement to help him in any way to pass the class. This, of course, is untrue on more than one level. One, simply because that is his job as a teacher to assist a student who needs help in the class. Two, because my son had an IEP, which made it even more contingent on the teacher to help him.

    I didn’t complain, because I had no income to speak of, no support from anyone in my community (I lived in Oklahoma City at the time), and a family that agreed with the teacher. I did not at that time know that such groups as the FFRF, AU, or American Atheists existed. I was aware of the ACLU, but didn’t realize they helped on this sort of thing. Why? Because I was educated in Oklahoma, I suppose. They don’t tell you some of the most important things in civics. I doubt I would have felt safe, anyway, with my father and mother still raging over the case that had just been decided that removed the Christian cross from their city seal.

    I salute this child – and his family – for standing up for his rights.

  • never administrate pledges and prayers.

    Given the effectiveness of prayer, a government that insists on prayer is just hoisting the stupid-roger anyway.

  • Glenn E Ross

    Even for people who want to say the pledge, why do they need to do it daily? Does it wear off or expire overnight?

  • kmareld

    Wow, this still happens?

    I should not be surprised. In 1970 I was excluded from homeroom for not saying the Pledge. Vietnam War was raging and my older brother was due to be drafted. I would stand up so as not to be disruptive and simply not say the pledge. Teacher sent me to Principal. Parents called in. Question? Is there a religious reason? No, First Amendment, I cannot be compelled to declare an oath simply to attend school. Principal agreed. Back to class. During the Pledge I was to stand outside the classroom. First day alone. I can handle that. I was being ostrascized by the teacher. Second day there were four others with me. By the fourth day the Principal came down the hall and noticed us 12 students not being in class during the Pledge. The next day we were oin the class standing respectfully saying or not saying the Pledge. The teacher was not back the next quarter, we students thought she went to school in a different state. Oh, I went to school in the Los Angeles School District.

  • Trebuchet

    I was in a class with a JW kid in Junior High, back about 1960. Other kids were harassing him and calling him a Commie. The school handled it in a surprisingly enlightened manner, calling the kid out of the class on a pretext and having the asst. principal come in and explain about freedom of religion and the first ammendment. And this was in Montana!

  • rilian

    This IS my home country.

    In 6th grade, in 1998, I didn’t stand for the pledges. After a few days the teacher slapped a note down on my desk that said “until I get a note from your mother saying you don’t have to say the pledge, you STAND” and stand was underlined 3 times. So I got a note from my mom. The next day the teacher smugly said I had to stand because the note only exempted me from SAYING the pledge, not from saying it. u asked my mom to write another note, but she didn’t want to make trouble for herself/me. I said “pledges” plural at first because they did say both the USA and Texas pledges, but for some reason the fuss was only over the USA pledge.

    Then in 9th grade I got in trouble for not standing, and the principle said the law said I didn’t have to say it but I did have to stand because it was disruptive if I didn’t, or u could leave the room during the pledge. Oh yeah, my school wasn’t even doing the pledge till 9-12. I hadn’t had to deal with this issue for a while. Anyway, I would leave the room, which was of course more disruptive than not standing, but still NBD … except to this one girl who decided to follow me in the halls and try to bully me into being patriotic. She blocked my path out of the classroom once. She and some friends pushed me in the hall. I told on her finally and I got suspended for 3 days and she got no punishment at all.

  • rilian

    That should say “The next day the teacher smugly said I had to stand because the note only exempted me from SAYING the pledge, not from standing for it.” And I accidentally typed u instead of I a couple of times. touch screens.

  • Nemo

    All I can think is, WTF is wrong with people?

  • dogmeat

    I see this every year because I teach government. When we get to the discussion of civil liberties and personal freedoms, we always end up in the conversation of teachers forcing students to say the pledge, stand for the pledge, etc. Most people don’t realize though that teachers come under the same pressure.

    This year there is a push by a student to force a teacher to say the pledge. The district is trying to nudge her into complying without actually flat out forcing her to do so. The general urge is to buckle to parent pressure, but the legal understanding is that they can’t. Seven or eight years ago I had a student complain to administration that I wasn’t saying the pledge. I told them when they return with a DD-214, and an NDSM we could talk about it. Kind of dropped the whole thing after that.

  • Olav

    Lovely, those funny Americans with their quaint customs 😉

    There is a nice animated GIF, right here:


  • dickspringer

    In spite of Robert Jackson’s 1943 Supreme Court decision, in Florida students CAN be forced to recite the Pledge because the current Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a Florida law requiring a parent’s written permission for a student to be excused from reciting the Pledge.

  • steve84

    Because nothing says freedom like forced loyalty oaths. This a pure totalitarianism. The picture would be complete with the original Bellamy salute.

    Americans in general have a sick tendency to force people into displays of “patriotism”. And then have the nerve to say it’s about respecting what the country stands for who to honor soldiers who allegedly “fought for freedoms”. This is one of the most insane and hypocritical rants you’ll ever read on the topic:


  • gerryl

    A slightly different take on the “forced pledge”: In my USAF basic training class back in 1972 we had a couple of women who were not US citizens. One, I think she was from Australia or New Zealand (but I may be wrong), objected to having to say the pledge of allegiance. There was a bit of a hubbub about it. I don’t recall how it was resolved, but I do remember wondering why anyone who voluntarily joins the military of a different country would object to pledging allegiance to that country.

    Does anyone know whether voluntarily signing up for military service means you can’t object to say the pledge?

  • martinc

    It’s funny that the only reason this teacher seems to think is acceptable for not saying the pledge is a pre-existing religious injunction against doing so. The thinking seems to be “I thought there could be no reason for a child not to mindlessly recite a sound-bite of words he probably doesn’t understand … but then it was brought to my attention that his religious includes another sound-bite of words he probably doesn’t understand that precludes it. Well, if it’s RELIGION, rather than rational examination, that’s different. My bad.”

  • What the hell does the U.S. need a pledge for anyway?

    It’s useless.

  • robinjohnson

    And it doesn’t matter whether his religion requires him not to say it or not.

    His parents’ religion.

  • @ martinc:

    “…Well, if it’s RELIGION, rather than rational examination, that’s different. My bad.”

    I’ll hazard a guess that the teacher doesn’t really consider the Jehovah’s Witness CULT to BE a religion.

    @ Janiceintoronto:

    “What the hell does the U.S. need a pledge for anyway?”

    It’s really all that keeps us, really–except for the poutine and the linguistic defects of “eh”, being said after every word and the “oot” in “outside the house”.–from being confused with our “little brothers ands sisters” to the North. True story. {;>)

  • pianoman, Heathen & Torontophile

    I was wondering why every fakakta sporting event I attend has to start with everyone singing the national anthem(s). how many people who are standing and removing their hats are doing it just to not stick out in the crowd?

  • dingojack

    What no Tesla Coil?

    :/ Dingo

  • dogmeat

    What the hell does the U.S. need a pledge for anyway?

    It’s useless.


    It was actually fading away prior to 9/11. In addition to the never ending “War on Terror,” the Patriot Act and associated assaults on our rights & liberties, and the growing police state mentality, 9/11 also brought back the pledge with a vengeance. Nothing says they hate us for our freedoms like shredding those freedoms and lining your eagle’s birdcage with them. Sadly, far too many see “Murikkka!!!” as a cheer of victory rather than a cry of despair.

  • timberwoof

    American flag fetishism takes some very odd forms ad traditions.

    Pianoman, if you forget to take off your hat during the Hymn to the Nation-God, someone behind you will whack your head as a reminder that you Must Be Respectful. (Don’t ask me how I know.)

    In San Jose when the Dallas Stars are the visiting hockey team, Sharks fans will boo and hiss when “bright stars” are mentioned in the Hymn. Visitors from Dallas clutch at pearls and express butt-hurt over the disrespect. It is not clear whether explaining to them that the disrespect is aimed toward their team totem, not to the Great Nation God, eases their butt-hurt.

    In high school I refused to participate in pep rallies for the sports teams. I explained to my teacher that I was embarrassed for my species and that should aliens land during that ceremony, I would not want to be part of the resulting carnage. As I was an ‘A’ student in her AP English class, she did not bother to try to enforce any such stupid rules on me. My home room teacher did not tell us about that 1943 Supreme Court ruling.

  • nakarti

    To paraphrase Roy Zimmerman: I didn’t say that. But that’s what I heard, somebody said that, it was me….