A teacher at Wiregrass Elementary School in Pasco County, Florida told a six-year-old boy to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance after he chose to kneel on Sept. 25.
The teacher sent a text message read to the boy’s mother, Eugenia McDowell, notes WFTS:
I just wanted to let you know that this morning when it was time to do the Pledge of Allegiance, (your son) went down on one knee. I knew where he had seen it but I did tell him that in the classroom we are learning what it means to be a good citizen we’re learning about respecting the United States of America and our country symbols and showing loyalty and patriotism and that we stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I know its a sensitive issue but I wanted to make you aware. Thanks.
McDowell told the news station:
What [the text message] said to me was that him taking a knee was the exact opposite – [That] He was disrespectful of the county, he was being disrespectful of the flag… And we don’t teach that… She told him right away, based on what he told me, to stand up and to stop it… That’s not her right.
Pasco County School District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe claimed that the school is following state law:
State law says that the only way that a student can be exempted from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is if they have a written request from their parent and even then the law says that they still have to stand.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1943 in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that students have the right to decide whether to participate in the pledge, notes Cornell Law School:
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.
We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their 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.