For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, email@example.com
David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Jacksonville, FL, June 1, 2015)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center has received a satisfactory response from officials at Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, FL, after a student was punished for exercising the First Amendment right to remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance.
According to a letter sent by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, a seventh grader at Lake Shore Middle School was told by a teacher that she must stand for the Pledge. The student had remained seated for the Pledge throughout the school year without incident, but on May 18, 2015, the teacher wrote up the student and sent her to the office, where she was given a two-day suspension. Then the student’s mother contacted the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center for assistance.
“That students have the right to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance for any reason is well-settled,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association, in reference to the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. “Choosing to sit out the Pledge is a matter of basic freedom of speech.”
“We are pleased that the school will abide by the law and respect the right to freedom of speech and freedom of conscience for all students,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.
After receiving the letter, school officials apologized to the student’s mother and made assurances that the suspension would be removed from the student’s record. They also stated that teachers would be informed of students’ right to remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance.
The American Humanist Association (AHA) has been helping public school students and parents from around the country in disputes over forced Pledge participation. The AHA is sponsoring a boycott of the Pledge of Allegiance to raise awareness about how the phrase “under God” in the Pledge, added in 1954 during the McCarthy era, discriminates against humanists and other nontheists by defining them as unpatriotic. The AHA assists students in school Pledge disputes regardless of the reason for choosing to opt out. More information about the campaign can be found at BoycottthePledge.com.
A copy of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center’s letter 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.