For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2014)—Officials at the American Humanist Association are pleased with the positive response they have received from the superintendent of School Town of Highland School District in regards to a violation of students’ right to refrain from participating in the Pledge of Allegiance.
According to a letter sent on December 6 by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, two students at Highland High School in Highland, Indiana, were threatened with punishment by a vice principal after they remained quietly at their desks during the school’s daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The letter was sent on behalf of one of the students, a sophomore and an atheist, who informed the legal center that when she and a friend opted out of the Pledge exercise, their teacher reported one of them to a guidance counselor. They were subsequently taken out of the classroom by the vice principal, who informed them that they would each receive a three-hour detention each time they refused to stand for the Pledge in the future.
The letter informed the school officials that numerous cases have recognized the First Amendment right of students to refrain from participating in the Pledge, and most notably, the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. Furthermore, the letter demanded that students and teachers be advised that students have the right to remain seated during the Pledge for any reason, that teachers be instructed that they are not to persuade students to participate in the Pledge and that no student who exercises the right to opt out of the Pledge exercise should be subjected to disciplinary action.
On December 8, the superintendent responded to the letter and provided written assurances to the Appignani Humanist Legal Center that “no students will be disciplined for not standing for the Pledge.”
A copy of the letter sent by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center can be found here.
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.