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Oak Park School District Allows Student to Boycott Pledge of Allegiance

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, merrillmiller@americanhumanist.org

David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119, dniose@americanhumanist.org

Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, mmiller@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, D.C., Sept. 30, 2014)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center applauds the administration at Oak Park Unified School District in Oak Park, California, for immediately taking corrective action in response to the legal center’s letter regarding a student’s constitutional right to refrain from participating in the school’s daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“We are pleased that the school district promptly addressed the situation and assured that any student will be permitted to remain seated during the Pledge without facing punishment,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “We appreciate school administrators, such as the Oak Park superintendent, taking the constitutional rights of students seriously,” she added.

The school district responded to a letter sent yesterday by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center on behalf of a ninth grade student who, as an atheist, objects to the phrase “under God” in the Pledge. When the student opted to quietly and unobtrusively sit at his desk during the daily Pledge exercise, his teacher loudly accused him of being disrespectful and intimidated him into standing for the Pledge. The student reported this violation of his rights to the Appignani Humanist Legal Center through the American Humanist Association’s website, DontSaythePledge.com, which provides resources for those wishing to boycott the Pledge in protest of the phrase “under God.”

“The student’s objection to ‘under God’ in the Pledge demonstrates thoughtful consideration that deserves respect,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “By ensuring that the rights of an atheist student are upheld, school district officials are respecting the rights of all students.” 

The school district has made written assurances to the legal center that all students will be permitted to remain seated during the Pledge exercise and that no teacher may threaten any student with punishment for nonparticipation in the Pledge exercise. In an email to the legal center’s attorneys, the superintendent stated, “We will be notifying all staff about students’ fundamental First Amendment rights as they pertain to this issue.” He added, “[p]lease know that it has been corrected and the teacher will apologize to the student. The parents will also be contacted and apologized to.”

A copy of the letter sent to the school can be found here.

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Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.