Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Maryland Teacher Called Police to Remove Student From Class for Refusing to Recite Pledge of Allegiance

In January, a Maryland school teacher called two police officers to escort a student from her classroom because the 13-year-old exercised her constitutional rights and refused to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The student also refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance on the previous day of school.

The teacher's attempt to force the student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance violates the constitutional doctrine stated by the Supreme Court in the 1943 ruling West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette. In Barnette, the Court overruled prior caselaw and held that forcing students to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance "transcends constitutional limitations on [the school officials'] power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control" (emphasis added).

The teacher's conduct also violates state policy. A Maryland student handbook states that: "You cannot be required to say a pledge, sing an anthem, or take part in patriotic exercises. No one will be permitted to intentionally embarrass you if you choose not to participate" (emphasis added). The other students in the class mocked the defiant student as police escorted her away from the classroom.

On the first day that the student refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the teacher yelled at her. Now, the teacher must apologize -- thanks to a settlement negotiated by the ACLU.


Anonymous said...

Obscene. Hope the kid goes to a different school.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

yes....or definitely gets another teacher. but i would not trust school administrators.

liberal dissent said...

I am always shocked by how school administrators, who tend to be among the most rule-bound and officious professions, tend to be so clueless about the law.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Some aren't clueless about the law; they just don't care about students' rights. I am not sure what was going on in this case. It seems like the teacher had it in for this student -- which indicates the possiblity of some other improper motive as well. Just not sure....

jbriggs444 said...

The bit about two police officers seemed a bit implausible. That part of the story turns out to been overstated or mis-reported. Some of the published accounts were careful to use the term "school police".

It appears that "two police officers" was more accurately "1 administrative aide".

Of course, that does not excuse coerced recitation or the subsequent coerced apology under color of authority. *boggle* -- what were they _thinking_.

Maryland law requires the pledge to be recited at the start of each day. However there's an escape clause. You don't have to if you don't want to.

Maryland Annoted code, Education, 7-105...

(3) Require all students and teachers in charge to stand and face the flag and while standing give an approved salute and recite in unison the pledge of allegiance as follows: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

(d) Exception from flag salute or pledge requirement.- Any student or teacher who wishes to be excused from the requirements of subsection (c) (3) of this section shall be excused.

This code section amounts to a requirement placed on the local school district.

The Montgomery County Schools handbook reflects [part of] the relevant school board policy as:

You will have the opportunity to participate in and/or watch patriotic exercises in school.

You cannot be required to say a pledge, sing an anthem, or take part in patriotic exercises. No one will be permitted to
intentionally embarrass you if you choose not to participate.

You may not interrupt others who are participating in patriotic exercises.

Annotated Code of Maryland, Education, Section 7-105
Regulation JFA-RA: Student Rights and Responsibilities

The student in question was attenting Roberto Clemente Middle School which is part of the Montgomery County Public Schools.

Personally, I consider the Maryland law to be a violation of the 1st amendment. (c) (3) is a facial violation and (d) cannot rescue it.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Jbriggs: Many public schools have onsite police officers. They are "school police" only in the sense that there regular "posts" are in school settings. Otherwise, they are cops. So, whether the cops were already on campus or were dispatched, it is the same problem: the teacher responded to a student's exercise of her constitutional right as if a crime had been committed.

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