For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, email@example.com
(Washington, D.C., Jan. 15, 2015)—The American Humanist Association is satisfied with a response it received from officials at El Monte Union High School District and Arroyo High School in El Monte, California, concerning a letter it sent on behalf of a student who was punished for exercising his right to remain seated during the school’s daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
The student, a senior at Arroyo High School, is an atheist who does not wish to participate in the Pledge exercise in any way. According to the letter sent by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Legal Center on his behalf on January 2, the student remained seated during the Pledge of Allegiance and was sent to the counselor’s office as a form of punishment. After remaining seated for the Pledge a second time, the student was sent out of the classroom for 30 minutes, and after exercising his right to nonparticipation in the Pledge a third time, he was threatened with detention.
The letter informed the school district that the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette guarantees public school students the right to opt out of the Pledge exercise. The letter also demanded that students and teachers in the district be informed that students have the right to opt out of the Pledge exercise, that teachers be advised that under no circumstance should they attempt to persuade students to refrain from standing for the Pledge or characterize such action as in any way wrongful, and that no disciplinary measures should be directed at students who choose to remain seated during the Pledge.
On January 9, school district officials made written assurances that students’ right to refrain from taking part in the daily Pledge recitation will be respected. A letter from the school district stated, “the District has apprised staff at Arroyo High School to ensure that students may stay seated and opt out of any Pledge exercise. The District will ensure that no student will be questioned or disciplined for nonparticipation in any Pledge exercise.”
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.