According to the Minot Daily News, parents of a 6-year-old at Edwin Loe Elementary School in Newtown, North Dakota, on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation are upset that their child isn’t being allowed to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance:
“It’s pretty much an ongoing thing,” said Jesse Adams, who said his son was allowed to sit out the pledge in his kindergarten class last year without incident. This year, he said, his child’s first-grade teacher has objected to letting the boy sit down during the pledge. Adams said the teacher has at times physically lifted the child out of his seat to try to force him to stand during the pledge. Adams said the teacher seems to think his son is being uncooperative and stubborn.
During the past few days, Adams said the school staff have started removing the boy from his classroom and having him stand out in the hall while the rest of the first-grade class says the Pledge of Allegiance. Adams said the principal also suggested that the parents avoid the problem by bringing the child to school 10 minutes late.
“It’s just ridiculous,” said Adams, who said it would take very little effort for the school to accommodate his son’s decision to sit quietly at his desk while the other children say the pledge. Adams said he believes the school administration has violated his son’s First Amendment rights and that making him stand outside the classroom counts as a public punishment and is bullying of his child.
The local superintendent said patriotism is an important lesson for kids, and he’s annoyed by how the parents have handled this.
Marc Bluestone, superintendent of the school district, said Monday the child’s first-grade teacher says it is distracting for the other students if the boy sits down during the pledge. The boy’s classmates wonder why the boy is allowed to remain seated and they are not and ask questions about what he is doing. That is why the school teacher has asked the child to stand outside the classroom while the pledge is said, said Bluestone.
Bluestone, a veteran whose sons have also served in the armed forces, said he also feels strongly about the importance of teaching children in the school about being patriotic. He also has been annoyed to receive several negative emails from people out of state about the incident because the American Humanist Association’s Appigani Humanist Legal Center chose to post online the letter that Miller sent to the school.
Bluestone said Monday morning he has contacted the school district’s attorney and will follow the attorney’s advice about how to handle the child’s refusal to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance.
When I was a kid in the Minot Public School system I had a friend in class who stood for the Pledge of Allegiance but didn’t recite it or place his hand over his heart. I asked why, and he told me his family is Jehova’s Witness, and they feel the pledge violates their religion’s prohibition on worshipping false idols. He said he stood to show that he respects the beliefs of others, but didn’t put hand over heart or recite the pledge because of his religious beliefs.
He was made fun of for this, but I always thought it was a reasonable enough thing.
After all, can we say that we are a free country if we are forced to perform mandatory loyalty oaths?
Looking at the situation in New Town, I really don’t understand why the child can’t be allowed to sit quietly during the 30 seconds or so it takes for the other children to perform the pledge. If the kid is doing something else during that time to be disruptive – making faces at the other kids, etc. – then fine. Hold him accountable for that. But if he wants to make a quiet choice not to recite the pledge for whatever convictions he holds dear, so be it.
That’s what the 1st amendment is all about.
A better way to inspire this kid’s loyalty to American ideals is not to force him to take a pledge he doesn’t want to take but to, you know, practice American ideals and let him exercise a little liberty.