Today we celebrate Sam Houston’s victory in the 18-minute battle of San Jacinto, which ensured the independence of The Republic of Texas. Today, just like every school day in Texas, children will stand and recite the pledge to the Texas flag. So far as I know, we are the only state in the country that requires recitation of a pledge to a state’s flag. Rightly so.
But remember that some students will not stand and recite. They have that right, and it’s one of those rights that the lawyers call “clearly established” law. It goes back to a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court case, West Virginia SBOE v. Barnette. Texas acknowledges this with a statute that requires schools to honor a written request from a student’s parent that the student not be required to recite either of the pledges. Some lawyers believe that the First Amendment right belongs to the child, and therefore, parental permission is not really necessary. That’s not clear, but what is clear is that the student who has written permission from the parent should not be required to recite a pledge to a Texas or U.S. flag. Nor should they be hassled if they choose to exercise that right.
This is well understood in Klein ISD which recently made a final settlement with a student at the cost of $90,000. The suit originally named the district and numerous district employees as defendants. The KISD and all but one district employee were eventually dismissed from the suit. That left one classroom teacher, the one who was accused of harassing the student over her decision. Since the case settled out of court, we never got a ruling as to the legality of the teacher’s conduct. But $90,000 sends a pretty strong message, no?
It's good to think about these things on this special day in Texas history. We ensured our independence as a governmental entity on this date in 1836. Nine years later Texas surrendered some of its independence by joining the United States. We agreed to abide by the Constitution. We backed out on that to join the Confederacy, but rejoined the Union and re-committed to the Constitution after the Civil War. In 1943 our High Court reminded us of the importance of the First Amendment:
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.
Let’s remember this in 2022.
DAWG BONE: HAPPY SAN JACINTO DAY, FELLOW TEXANS!
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Tomorrow: we’re zooming tomorrow!