“I pledge allegiance….”

We start this week with a report on the Pledge of Allegiance case from Klein ISD.   The Daily Dawg has reported about this case numerous times going back to 2018.  A student claimed that she was being forced to recite the Pledge, and hassled when she refused to do so.  Texas law allows students to refrain from reciting the Pledge if they have written permission from a parent. 

The case started out with numerous named defendants, but all except one were dismissed from the case early on. The one who remained was the teacher who assigned all of the students in his class to write the words of the Pledge.  The student (plaintiff) refused to carry out the assignment.

So consider: if a teacher assigns the students to write out, by hand, the words to the Pledge, is that teacher forcing the student to recite the Pledge?  The 5th Circuit said “no.” The opinion is very short and omits all of the interesting background which you can get from earlier Daily Dawg posts (May 29 and 30, 2018; August 29 and 30, 2018; and May 27, 2020).  Here is the critical ruling:

Despite [the student’s] belief otherwise, a reasonable jury could not return a verdict in her favor. Even if her mother complied with the parental opt-out provision, the record demonstrates that none of the Defendants ever compelled [the student] to recite the pledge.

Thus it ends not with a bang, but a whimper.

Nevertheless, educators should remember that the right of students to refuse to recite the Pledge is solidly established in the law.  It goes back to a 1943 Supreme Court decision.  Let’s remember to respect those students who choose to exercise this right.  Failure to do so violates a constitutional right that is “clearly established,” meaning that personal liability in a civil suit is a distinct possibility.

It’s Oliver v. Champion, decided by the 5th Circuit on October 26, 2021 in an unpublished opinion. 


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com

Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!