Another Day, Another Two Students Punished for Not Standing During the Pledge of Allegiance

These stories are coming non-stop lately thanks to the American Humanist Association’s recent campaign encouraging students to remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Today, the AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the Washington County School District in Abingdon, Virginia on behalf of an 8th-grade student at E.B. Stanley Middle School.

The student in question, currently in eighth grade at the E.B. Stanley Middle School, does not wish to participate in the Pledge exercise in any manner because he objects to the recitation on several grounds, including the “under God” language in particular. As such, he has attempted to simply sit at his desk during the exercise in an undisruptive manner. When he has done this, however, he has been ordered by his teachers (both last year and this year) to stand with the threat of discipline for refusing to do so. The student has also been lectured for attempting to opt out, having been told by his teacher last year that failure to participate in the exercise was somehow an unpatriotic offense to those who have served in the military.

That’s strange, especially since the teachers are violating the law by making the kid stand up — and you would think breaking American law would be considered far more unpatriotic than someone who exercises his freedom of speech.

A similar thing happened to a high school freshman in California’s Oak Park Unified School District. In a letter, the AHA’s Monica Miller explained the problem to district officials:

The student in question, currently in ninth grade at Oak Park High School, is an atheist and does not wish to participate in the Pledge exercise in any manner because he objects to the “under God” language and feels that any level of participation in the exercise validates that theistic affirmation. As such, he has attempted to simply sit at his desk during the exercise in an undisruptive manner. When he did this, however, he was reprimanded by his teacher (Russell Peters) in front of the entire class, and was even accused of being “disrespectful.” The teacher, in a loud and “yelling voice,” further told the student that he would be removed from class if he ever refused to stand for the Pledge again. The student felt so intimidated by the teacher’s actions that he felt compelled to stand during the Pledge exercise since the incident, against his sincerely held beliefs.

This should just become a part of institute days for teachers at the beginning of the year — a quick reminder that the Pledge is optional for everyone. No one has to say it and no teacher has the right to even threatened punishment to any student who wants no part of it.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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