When they say the Pledge, do they have to stand?

This week we are looking at cases in which students have challenged laws that require the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Today we look at the one Circuit Court case where the student’s argument was not completely successful.

Florida had a law that required students to stand during the Pledge, even those whose parents had opted them out of this requirement.  Under the statute, parents could do that. In fact, the only way the student could be excused from the requirement was with written parental consent.  More on that in a moment. So not all students would be required to recite the Pledge, but all of them would be required to “show full respect to the flag by standing at attention, men removing the headdress, except when such headdress is worn for religious purposes…”

The court held that the “stand at attention” part of the statute was unconstitutional.  You can require students to be non-disruptive, but not to stand.

However, the court was OK with the part of the law that allowed the student to refuse to recite the Pledge only with parental approval.  The court recognized the case law that acknowledges a student’s right not to recite the Pledge. But here, there was another important factor—the right of the parent to control a child’s upbringing.  Key Quote:

Although we accept that the government ordinarily may not compel students to participate in the Pledge…we also recognize that a parent’s right to interfere with the wishes of his child is stronger than a public school official’s right to interfere on behalf of the school’s own interest.

This decision is good news for the State of Texas, since we have a similar law.

On written request from a student’s parent or guardian, a school district or open enrollment charter school shall excuse the student from reciting a pledge of allegiance under Subsection (b). T.E.C. 25.082(c).

The Florida case is Frazier v. Winn, decided by the 11th Circuit on July 23, 2008. We found it at 535 F.3d 1279 (11th Cir. 2008).

This completes our review of “I don’t want to recite the Pledge” cases. On Monday we will reflect on what these cases mean for high school football players who choose to “take a knee” during the Anthem.