A middle school nurse in Pennsylvania refused to treat and verbally abused and humiliated an 8th grade student for refusing to stand during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
The American Humanist Association (AHA) has sent a letter to Carlisle Area School District on behalf of the Wilson Middle School student who was verbally abused and harassed by the school nurse for exercising the constitutional right to remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance.
According to the letter, the student was in the nurse’s office with several others when the school’s Pledge recitation was conducted. She quietly remained seated during the exercise, raising the ire of the school nurse who then criticized her and even refused to attend to her. Badgered and humiliated, the student left in tears.
Referencing the 1943 case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association, said:
“The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that public school students have the unequivocal right to opt out of participation the Pledge of Allegiance exercise. There is no excuse for a school staff member to humiliate and bully a student who chooses to exercise this right, and the nurse’s refusal to service the student is particularly egregious.”
According to the Friendly Atheist, the American Humanist Association is not asking that the nurse be fired. Instead, the AHA is asking for a written apology to the eighth grader, and for the school district to officially inform students that they may remain seated during the Pledge. In addition, the AHA wants the district to instruct staff that they may not discipline students who refuse to participate in the Pledge.
Late Thursday, Carlisle school officials released a statement saying the district is investigating the claims. District administrators issued the following statement to the media:
The Carlisle Area School District is aware of reports that the district allegedly violated a student’s right to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance. The district is investigating the matter at this time. The District has and will continue to protect the rights of all students and staff. Under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act and other applicable laws, the District is not permitted to disclose details of its own investigation or to otherwise comment on situations involving specific students or staff.
The AHA reports the student contacted the group through its BoycottthePledge.com website.
Readers can find out more about the campaign to support the right of public school students to opt out of the Pledge as well as the ways in which the phrase “under God” in the Pledge discriminates against atheists, humanists and other nontheists, here.