Sunday, November 27, 2005

To Stand, Or Not To Stand, That Is The Question

One of our commenters named "Bab's" is concerned that one of her students isn't standing for The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag:
Advice please! I'm a second career intern. The VP stopped by during 1st period to catch the Pledge of Allegiance. In my class is a goth 9th grader whose brother serves now in Iraq. She did not stand for the Pledge. The VP, who wore sunglasses the whole time, left after 90 seconds with a HRUUMP. I couldn't see if it were me or the students he HRUMMPed about because his eyes were hidden.

I have since researched Ed Code 52720 and realized that the kids at least need to stand. I didn't know that - when I was I high school during the Vietnam War in the Bay Area, we did not do a flag salute.

My question: how do I appease the VP aside from saying I was wrong and uninformed? Your advice will be very helpful.

Thanks, Babs
I'm guessing that you teach here in California, as we are very familiar with the statute that you cited (section 52720) of the California Education Code:
In every public elementary school each day during the school year at the beginning of the first regularly scheduled class or
activity period at which the majority of the pupils of the school
normally begin the schoolday, there shall be conducted appropriate
patriotic exercises. The giving of the Pledge of Allegiance to the
Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy the requirements
of this section.

In every public secondary school there shall be conducted daily
appropriate patriotic exercises. The giving of the Pledge of
Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy
such requirement. Such patriotic exercises for secondary schools
shall be conducted in accordance with the regulations which shall be
adopted by the governing board of the district maintaining the
secondary school.
As you teach in a secondary school, the bottom paragraph is applicable to your situation. Not knowing which school district in which you teach, I can't be sure what, if any, policies that your district's governing board may have adopted to augment the state's statute. Generally speaking, board policies cannot be in conflict with either state or federal constitutions and statutes.

Having said that, we can offer you some general guidelines.

The short answer is that students may not be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. This is the result of a 1943 ruling by the United States Supreme Court. (
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette)

In the not-too-distant past, students who chose not to render the pledge could still be expected to stand "respectfully" while the rest of the class recited the pledge. Your board may even have adopted a policy that may require this. (I would be surprised.) However, there is no applicable state (Please see wording of Section 52720) or federal statute that compels students to stand.

Our own school district's current board policies are silent regarding the flag pledge. When I first became a teacher some 14 years ago, the board policy at that time required the teacher to lead his or her class in a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Since then, that policy has been discreetly dropped.

Our district's administration has never had a written policy requiring students to "stand respectfully" during the flag pledge and has quietly stopped supporting any teacher who disciplined students that declined to stand. I believe that the district's thinking is that any student who sued the district would likely prevail, as not standing for the flag pledge could be considered in of itself a political statement.
There's a good illustrative example of what may happen right here. (Follow the link and scroll down to the "Alabama Example.")

I believe that the district is right in this case. Any student who is forced to stand would likely win should he or she file a complaint against the district.

I assume that in your district the V.P. you mentioned conducts teacher evaluations. (This varies from district to district depending on your collective bargaining agreement.) As a practical matter, since you are most likely non-tenured, it would probably be an excellent idea for you to consult that V.P. as to what the rules are regarding The Pledge of Allegiance.

You shouldn't admit that you are wrong, but you should simply ask his advice on what to do in the future. Your vice principal doesn't need to know that you've done a little research.

This whole maneuver is similar to an attorney asking questions of a witness in court. A smart attorney knows what the answers will be.

The benefit to you will derive from simply asking the questions.

This would show that you are aware of the concern and are seeking to address it. The one thing that costs more new teachers their jobs than anything else is failure to maintain classroom control. By seeking advice from the V.P., you are subtly communicating to him that you will follow his or her guidance in order to avoid what could be a potentially disruptive situation.

For many site administrators, an orderly classroom is a good classroom.
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