ACLU reminds schools that students have the right to protest pledge

You hear The Pledge of Allegiance every morning in schools across the United States, but some children remain silent, sitting underneath the Stars and Stripes.

NEW ORLEANS -- You hear The Pledge of Allegiance every morning in schools across the United States, but some children remain silent, sitting underneath the Stars and Stripes.

Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union, is sending letters to every school superintendent across the state reminding them that if they discipline students for refusing to stand forthe pledge or salute the flag, they're infringing on their freedom of speech.

"This is something that in 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that students can't be forced to stand or to salute the flag or anything of that nature," Esman said. "So, this is something every school district should have known."

Esman said recently, the ACLU has received two calls about Louisiana schools threatening to punish high schoolers for not standing for the pledge of allegiance.

It's a debate that has flared up nationally since San Francisco Quarterback Collin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem. And in California, a Native American student's grade was almost lowered for sitting during the pledge.

"Because of the history that happened, here on my land, my people's land ... I go by that and I don't agree with it," Leilani Thomas, the student at the center of the California controversy said. "So I'm not going to stand for the people who did this to my people."

Her Superintendent  stood by her, but not everyone feels the same.

On our Facebook page, Thomas' story drew ire from our readers. 

"If my child sat during the pledge, she would have more problems than a docked grade," said one commentor. "It's called respect. Something people lack in this day and age."

Esman says that kind of back-and-forth is exactly what the flag stands for.

"People have fought and died for the freedom that we have to disagree with one another," she said. "That's what people have fought and died for and that's what our flag represents."

Esman wouldn't say which schools these incidents took place in locally, nor would she comment on what kind of punishment, if any, the students who protested The Pledge of Allegiance face.

(© 2016 WWL)


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