For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, email@example.com
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2014)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is pleased to have received a positive response from officials at the Jefferson Parish Public School System in Harvey, Louisiana, concerning a letter sent from the legal center on behalf of students wishing to exercise their right to remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance.
According to the letter, sent on December 5, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School in Gretna, Louisiana, sat quietly at her desk in an undisruptive manner during the school’s daily Pledge recitation. Several days later, the school’s principal made an announcement that all students were required to stand for the Pledge. When the student met with the principal to discuss her right to opt out of the Pledge, guaranteed by the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the principal demanded that she report to his office every morning that she did not participate in the daily Pledge recitation to stand and recite the Pledge with him. The principal also insisted that the student bring her mother to school to meet with the principal regarding her refusal to stand for the Pledge.
The letter from the Appignani Humanist Legal Center demanded that the student be excused from reporting to the principal’s office for sitting out the Pledge and from bringing in her mother for the meeting. The letter also demanded that the school inform teachers and students that students have the absolute right to opt out of the Pledge exercise, that staff be advised that they are not to attempt to persuade students from refraining to stand for the Pledge, and that no student who exercises the right to remain seated during the Pledge should face discipline.
On December 11, one of the students who originally contacted the center regarding the principal’s announcement informed the Appignani Humanist Legal Center that the principal was continuing to coerce students into standing for the Pledge by “yelling” the words to the Pledge and then instructing a fellow school employee: “say it loud, make them mad.” The following day, the legal center sent a follow-up email to school officials, informing them that such actions by the principal are “completely inappropriate and can only be interpreted as overt hostility towards students who exercise their constitutional right to sit out the Pledge.” The email again demanded that no retaliation be directed at students who exercised their right to remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance.
Today, the Jefferson Parish Public School System made written assurances to the legal center that the matter is being addressed. School officials stated that “No disciplinary or retaliatory action will be taken against any JPPSS student who exercises his or her constitutional rights.”
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.