To Stand or Not to Stand

To Stand or Not to Stand

Emerson Marquez, Opinions Editor

On February 4, a sixth-grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida was arrested with misdemeanor charges. The charges came from him being uncooperative with his teacher, schools dean and the resource officer stemming from him not standing up for the pledge of allegiance. The student alleged that the Pledge of Allegiance is ‘racist’ against black people. The student in this situation had the right to not say the pledge of but he didn’t have the right to become disruptive and threatening the safety of his peers and adults.

Despite what you may have heard in the past, you have the right to not recite or stand for the pledge of allegiance in any public school. This right comes from a Supreme Court case in 1943 (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette) that ruled that public school students are not required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance holding that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment gives students a choice. The case came from a law in West Virginia that required students to salute the flag. After that court case, there were multiple others which all came to conclusion that students have the right to sit down during the Pledge of Allegiance.

The court’s decision was also a big deal for Jehovah’s Witnesses whose religion forbids them from pledging to any symbols. The court case overruled a different Supreme Court case from 1940 on the same topic. But in that court case (Minersville School District v. Gobitis) the court ruled with the school district that students have to recite the pledge of allegiance. The 1940 court ruling was blatantly infringing on freedom of religion of US citizens. Jehovah’s witnesses religion states that god’s laws are superior than laws of the current government. Exodus, Chapter 20, verses 4 and 5, states,”Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them.”

Although in California there are no laws that state that students have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, other states including Texas do to some degree. Like when a student was expelled from her Houston High school in 2017 for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Her so called ‘silent protest’ sparked a long legal battle in federal court trying to defend her free speech. But the Texas attorney General intervened and defended a state law that requires students to recite the pledge.

Some reasons why people may argue that we have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance up include: We stand for our flag to honor those who have fought and died for the United States of America. We stand for the flag to be united together and severed differences. And lastly, we stand for our flag to ‘salute the principle of justice.’

Some reasons why people argue that we shouldn’t  have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance include: the endured racism that the USA has stood for, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said in an interview,“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Another reason people may not recite the Pledge of Allegiance is because of the line “One Nation Under God” which people may find discriminatory against people who don’t believe in god.

Dana students and staff have their own opinions of what to do during the pledge. Here’s some of their thoughts: 8th grader Peter Toscano commented on this issue, stating,” I think people should because it’s like respect for our country. If it’s like against your religion like Jehovah’s witnesses you shouldn’t have to stand up, but if you have no real excuse of not pledging to the flag then I think you should stand.”

Image Courtesy: The Hill. Students reciting the pledge of allegiance in a elementary school

When asked about the issue 8th grade History teacher, Mrs.Dragich said,” I think that it’s a personal decision but I find it one that you need to be respectful to our country and as part of our heritage and our culture. I think that if you decide not to you [stand during the pledge] still need to be respectful as far as not being on your phone and not being distracting when the pledge of allegiance is being said.”

And when I asked 8th grader Brittany Sullivan’s opinion on this topic, she said,”If you want to stand up then that’s fine but you don’t have to if you don’t want to for good reason. It’s good that we’re here and we have more freedom then a lot of other people in the world but this pledge can mean different things for different people.”