Justice

Parents Respond to a Pledge of Allegiance Waiver

August 24th 2016

By:
Kyle Jaeger

In an effort to comply with state law, a Florida school district recently sent students home with a wavier that would allow them to opt out of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with a parent's signature. This waiver didn't sit well with some members of the community — and now the district has decided to abandon the form altogether.

pledge

Micah Brienen, the uncle of one Leon County Schools student, shared a photo of the wavier on Facebook last week, USA Today reported. He wrote "[t]his is the dumbest thing I have ever read and I am so ashamed of it." It struck a nerve and more than 27,000 people shared the post.

While most states require public schools to make time for daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that schools cannot compel students to salute the flag or recite the Pledge on the basis that such a requirement violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In Florida, the opt-out option isn't new; but an education bill signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott in April mandated that schools notify parents of the option, according to Education Week.

Brienen told The Tallahassee Democrat that he respects laws giving students a choice in the matter but feels the waiver represents a slippery slope. He said that "more must be done to defend our country's values and traditions" and blamed "progressive politics" for "destroying our school system."

But Leon County Schools communication manager Chris Petley thinks outrage over the waiver may be misguided.

"I think the crux of [the controversy] was the form, and people misunderstanding what the form was," Petley told ATTN:. "It's been state law in Florida for a long time... I think we became an example of the existing law that many people weren’t aware of."

Picture of the Supreme Court

In response to the backlash, Leon County Schools superintendent Jackie Pons removed the waiver from school handbooks. The revised handbooks will include the exact language of the state law instead.

"Leon County Schools values patriotism, civic responsibility, and the Pledge of Allegiance," the district said in a statement emailed to ATTN:. "Superintendent Pons received several messages from the community in regards to this process and — upon further inspection — made the decision to remove the form and revise the code of conduct booklet. We apologize for any confusion the form may have caused."

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