Free Speech Press Release

11.17.09

ACLU Warns School to Stop Requiring Students to Participate in Pledge

Official Continues to Punish Student Who Refuses to Say Pledge

HUBBARD, OH- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter today to officials at Hubbard Exempted Village School District (HEVSD) urging them to immediately stop punishing students who refuse to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. The letter comes after the ACLU of Ohio received reports from a student at Hubbard High School who has repeatedly refused for several weeks to stand and say the Pledge.

ACLU of Ohio Cooperating Attorney Mike Honohan said, “Students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they walk inside a school building. While classrooms are permitted to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, there is a long list of moral, ethical, or personal reasons an individual may not wish to participate.”

Over the past several weeks when the student has declined to take part in the Pledge, the supervising teacher sends her to the assistant principal’s office. She has been repeatedly written up by administrators and threatened with disciplinary action if she continues to refuse to stand up during the Pledge.

“This student has been threatened with punishment simply because she refuses to conform to what administrators want her to do. Schools should be a place where different views are embraced and explored, yet these educators have decided to single out this student and chastise her,” added Honohan.

Ohio law allows school districts to decide whether classrooms will recite the Pledge of Allegiance. However, the law also states that no student can be forced to participate and that the school shall prohibit intimidation of any student by staff or other students.

In the letter, the ACLU urges the school district to add language to its policies reflecting this and instruct all staff that students may not be compelled to participate in the Pledge.

“Just as we must respect people’s right to say things with which we might disagree, we must also protect their right to stay silent on other issues. As trustees of our children’s education, it is critical that school officials protect rather than suppress diverging ideas,” Honohan concluded.