In response to the American Humanist Association’s Don’t Say the Pledge campaign, they have received hundreds of complaints from students who have been harassed and berated by teachers and punished by the schools for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. A couple of the new ones:
Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to officials at the School District of Lee County in Fort Myers, Florida, regarding a constitutional violation that took place earlier this morning regarding a student who was punished for exercising his constitutional right to remain seated during the school’s daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
According to the letter, a senior at Cypress Lake High School, who identifies as an atheist and objects to the Pledge exercise on several grounds including its “under God” language, attempted to remain seated at his desk in a quiet and undisruptive manner during the recitation of the Pledge. However, his teacher berated him, accused him of being unpatriotic, and punished him with in-school suspension. When the student reported the matter to the school administration, he was still given the choice of participating in the Pledge exercise or being punished.
And in California:
Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to school officials at the San Jacinto Unified School District in San Jacinto, California, on behalf of the family of a student at Monte Vista Middle School. The letter concerns a seventh grade student who has been coerced by his teacher into standing for the Pledge of Allegiance when he attempted to exercise his right to remain seated during the Pledge. The letter also addresses a banner promoting prayer displayed in the student’s classroom.According to the letter, both the teacher’s refusal to allow the student to opt out of the daily Pledge recitation and the presence of a banner promoting prayer are violations of the Establishment Clause. When the student, an atheist who objects to the phrase “under God,” attempted to sit quietly at his desk in an undisruptive manner during the Pledge exercise, his teacher berated him and erroneously informed him that the law required him to stand. The teacher then demanded that the student explain his reason for remaining seated, asking, “Do you hate America?” and making other statements meant to pressure him into standing.
This just reflects how completely ignorant many teachers and school administrators are on the law. It really shouldn’t be that difficult. The Supreme Court ruled on this more than 70 years ago, for crying out loud. And any teacher who harasses or berates a student for making that choice should, at the very least, be reprimanded and suspended.