For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
(East Syracuse, NY, Oct. 29, 2015)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center received a favorable response from officials at East Syracuse Minoa Center School District in East Syracuse, New York, to its letter regarding a student who defended her right to remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance, only to be told by her teacher, “I don’t care about the law.”
The school district’s letter comes in response to a warning sent by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center about a teacher who berated a senior student during a class discussion about opting out of the Pledge of Allegiance. The student, who objected to the “under God” wording of the Pledge, had been exercising her right to not participate in the Pledge recitation. During the discussion, her teacher singled in out in class by using profanities and calling her “selfish” and “disrespectful.” The student was so upset by the incident that she broke down in tears and could not return to class until the next day.
When the student returned, a school administrator monitored the class and the teacher offered a cursory apology, but the Appignani Humanist Legal Center demanded that all staff and students in the district be informed of student’s rights to remain seated during the Pledge. The legal center also demanded that teachers be instructed not to discipline students who opted out of the Pledge or characterize their behavior as wrongful.
In its letter, the school district states, “We deeply regret that the student was not responded to in a professional manner and the teacher has acknowledged this behavior and apologized to the student and class.” The letter also assured the Appignani Humanist Legal Center that “we have engaged with our legal counsel formally to remind and instruct our staff of the rights accorded to students who do not and do not choose to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.”
To educate public school students about their right to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance, the American Humanist Association is leading a national boycott of the Pledge. The boycott also raises awareness about the discriminatory nature of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, which characterizes atheists, humanists and other nontheists as unpatriotic, second-class citizens.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic 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.