Fined for not saying the Pledge of Allegiance
Massachusetts has a law that requires teachers to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of every school day. The law calls for a $5.00 fine against teachers who fail to recite the Pledge for at least two weeks. The relevant part of the law reads:
Each teacher at the commencement of the first class of each day in all grades in all public schools shall lead the class in a group recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag”. A flag shall be displayed in each classroom in each such schoolhouse. Failure for a period of five consecutive days by the principal or teacher in charge of a school . . . or failure for a period of two consecutive weeks by a teacher to salute the flag and recite said pledge as aforesaid, or to cause the pupils under his charge so to do, shall be punished for every such period by a fine of not more than five dollars. (Mass. General Law 71 Section 69).
In December, 2010 a public school in Brookline, Massachusetts sent home a permission slip that read: “Yes, my child will participate in the weekly Pledge of Allegiance” or “No, my child will not participate in the weekly Pledge of Allegiance.”
The principal of the school also sent home a notice that defined the words “under God” as meaning “there is one Supreme entity for every citizen.” Principal Gerardo Martinez said that no student would be forced to say the Pledge or remain seated if there’s a conflict between the parents permission and the student’s action in class.
Gerardo further explained “I urge you to have a conversation as a family to help your children understand why I will be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and to support them in feeling comfortable and confident in the decision on whether or not to participate.”
For more about free speech at school, see the story of Will Phillips.
Note: In 1940, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 8-1 that schools can discipline a student for refusing to salute the U.S. flag (Minersville School District v. Gobitis). However, three years later, the Court reversed itself and ruled 6-3 that such a requirement violates the student’s free speech rights. (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943).