Ohio Student Sits Out Pledge of Allegiance, Told He Will Be Punished

(Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2014)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to officials at East Gurnsey Local Schools in Old Washington, Ohio, and at Buckeye Trail High School in Lore City, Ohio, on behalf of a student who was threatened with punishment when he exercised his right to refrain from participating in the school’s daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The student, a sophomore who wishes to opt out of the Pledge exercise for religious reasons, was told by his teacher that he was being disrespectful when he attempted to remain seated quietly and non-disruptively at his desk. His teacher also informed him that he would be disciplined if he sat out the Pledge again. The letter states that this is a violation of the student’s constitutional rights.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the right of students to opt out of the Pledge exercise for any reason,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, in reference to the 1943 case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. “Doing so is a matter of students’ freedom of speech and freedom of consciousness.”

The letter demands that the school district inform teachers and students that students have the right to refrain from participating in the Pledge of Allegiance for any reason and that teachers be instructed that they should not attempt to persuade students to stand for the Pledge if they choose to do otherwise. The letter also demands that teachers be notified that they are not to direct any disciplinary measures at students who opt out of the Pledge.

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.