School Board Retaining “Stand Or Else” Policy For Daily Pledge Of Allegiance
The Lafayette Parish School Board voted tonight not to let one instance of a student refusing to stand sway the district from its existing policy of requiring students to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
The board voted 8-1 to reject a new policy that removes language requiring students to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Dawn Morris cast the lone dissenting vote on the matter. She cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision to protect the First Amendment Right of freedom of speech as her reasoning for voting to install the new policy.
Now, though the U.S. Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit Court agree that a student cannot be reprimanded for not standing during the pledge, the policy in place gives educators the authority to require their students stand.
Board Members Britt Latiolais, Erick Knezek, and Bob Angelle, all of whom are U.S. military veterans, said they support retaining the current policy that reads as follows:
At the beginning of each school day, time shall be permitted for those students and teachers desiring to do so to observe a brief time in silent meditation (not intended or identified as a religious exercise), which shall not exceed five minutes, and for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
Every assembly or meeting in each school should begin with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and with the playing or singing of the National Anthem. Throughout the playing of the National Anthem and/or the recitation of the Pledge Allegiance to the Flag, all students shall stand at respectful attention. During recitation of the pledge, each student shall place his/her right hand over his/her heart.
If a student, due to a conscientiously and sincerely held religious belief, feels entitled to an exemption to the requirement to recite the pledge, such student shall still be required to stand.
Mary Morrison, a teacher herself, said students when given the option, may choose to remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem due to peer pressure.
The board's reason for considering the issue came after a civil rights advocacy group alleged an Acadiana High teacher mistreated a student who refused to stand for the pledge multiple times.
Board member Tehmi Chaisson stressed that the board cannot enforce through federal policy that any student rise for the Pledge. If an educator chooses to enforce the "stand or else" policy, the school district is inviting litigation from the student(s) who can claim their First Amendment right to freedom of speech is not being upheld.
Hidalgo said the council should fight fervently against any potential lawsuit brought before the district, rather than succumb to political correctness related to the issue.
“Caving into these types of threats opens the door for more political correctness,” Hidalgo concluded before casting his vote to reject the policy revision.