A teacher in Florida, apparently completely unaware of the existence of the First Amendment and a Supreme Court ruling that goes back a full seven decades, has been suspended for five days after forcing a child to say the pledge of allegiance and insulting them with jingoism in the process.
As the students recited, teacher Anne Daigle-McDonald took the boy’s wrist and placed his hand over his heart. He protested, pulling his arm down and reminding her he was a Jehovah’s Witness.
“You are an American, and you are supposed to salute the flag,” Daigle-McDonald said, according to a statement the boy gave to a school administrator.
The next day, Daigle-McDonald again placed the boy’s hand over his heart.
She then addressed the class.
“In my classroom, everyone will do the pledge; no religion says that you can’t do the pledge,” several students told a school administrator, according to a report. “If you can’t put your hand on your heart, then you need to move out of the country.”
Unfortunately, this is just plain ignorant:
The issue is one that has cropped up in school districts across the country for decades: Do students have a right to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance?
In the Hernando County School District, the answer is clear: Yes.
The answer is clear everywhere. The Supreme Court settled this in 1943 in West Virginia v Barnette, ruling that the government could not force a child to recite the pledge of allegiance. It’s one of the most famous SCOTUS rulings ever, with one of the most eloquent and memorable passages ever written, by Justice Robert Jackson.
“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.
The teacher was suspended five days without pay. Unfortunately, her ignorance remains:
In a conference with Heather Martin, the Hernando district’s executive director of business services, Daigle-McDonald told her version of the story.
She was aware that the boy was a Jehovah’s Witness, but not that he couldn’t say the pledge.
“His mother told me that he didn’t celebrate holidays or birthdays, and I told her that was fine,” the teacher said.
She said that he had been drawing or doodling in previous days. He seemed confused, she said. Some other kids were also not reciting the pledge.
On Sept. 11, the 12-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and western Pennsylvania, she said she didn’t want the boy to be distracted and was worried “the other children might imitate him.”
She said she made statements to the class about reciting the pledge, but never directed them solely at the boy.
Martin told her that nearly all of the students who were interviewed indicated that, on Sept. 12, the day after the first incident, she told the class that those who didn’t want to say the pledge should move back to their home country.
“But that’s not what I said,” Daigle-McDonald responded. “It was directed at citizenship. I was talking about pledging allegiance to our country, and if you don’t want to pledge to our country, you should go to your home country.”
So she’s clearly lying. And even if that were true, it’s still jingoistic stupidity. And it doesn’t matter whether his religion requires him not to say it or not. Any child can refuse to say it for any reason whatsoever.