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Teacher Asks If She's Required To Force Students To Stand For The Pledge Of Allegiance Because The Assistant Principal Said 'It's What We Do Here'

Photo: Studio Romantic / Shutterstock
group of students sitting in circle

A Colorado teacher sparked an interesting conversation surrounding a ritual that many students have been told to follow while in school.

Posting to the subreddit "r/Teachers" — an online public forum where anyone can discuss education and anything related to teaching — a middle school educator voiced her confusion on whether she should be forcing her students to participate in the same ritual. 

She wondered if her students were supposed to be standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

In her Reddit post, she explained that despite the Supreme Court ruling of West Virginia v. Barnette in 1943, she is aware that she has no right to force students in her class to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. 

"Students 100% have a constitutional right to NOT stand for or recite the pledge of allegiance every morning regardless of how anyone personally feels about it," she pointed out. "I support constitutional rights as an American citizen."

teacher wonders if she's required to force her students to stand during the pledge of allegiancePhoto: Reddit

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However, the issue of her stance was brought up by the middle school's vice principal, who pulled her aside one day after noticing that there were many students not standing. The vice principal acknowledged that she would have to make them stand if they were refusing.

"I just smiled and nodded as a first-year teacher who was already being scolded for being late to school that day within the same conversation, but no way will I ever follow this request!" the teacher continued.

She noted that she didn't think it was her place to speak up and say something to the vice principal, but promised that if she were asked to do it again, she would bring up the constitutional ruling and the rights of her students to engage in their first amendment right of freedom of speech and expression, which includes the right to abstain from reciting or standing for the Pledge.

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Several states in America require the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited by students with varying exemptions.

According to the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, West Virginia v. Barnette determined that no school or government can compel someone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the flag. However, per The Hill, 47 states in America require the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited in public schools, with varying exemptions for students or staff who want to opt-out.

teacher wonders if she's required to force her students to stand during the pledge of allegiancePhoto: Pamela Au / Shutterstock

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For example, both Florida and Texas allow exemptions from students only if a parent or guardian writes a letter of consent. In Colorado, where this teacher is located, the state is required to "provide an opportunity each school day for willing students to recite the pledge of allegiance" for elementary and secondary schools.

While students have the right to refuse to participate in the Pledge, school districts can have their own policies regarding it. These policies can vary from one district to another, and some schools may require students to stand respectfully while the Pledge is recited but cannot force them to say it.

It's incredibly unrealistic to force students to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, especially considering not everyone has the same relationship with the American Flag and this country as other people may have.

This teacher's post serves as a poignant reminder that as interconnected and diverse as our country is, it can be an extremely complex and nuanced conversation surrounding the importance of traditions versus individual rights.

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.