I wrote awhile back about how Texas had passed a law requiring a moment of silence and recitation of pledges to both the American and Texas flags. Now it seems that at least one elementary school will be grading their kindergartners on how well they know their pledges as well as state and national flags. Realizing that this could run afoul of past Supreme Court rulings that made it clear that mandatory recitations are not Constitutional, the school is saying that any child who refuses to recite the pledge won’t be graded on it, but would still be graded on the flags.
Although the district doesn’t require anyone to say the pledge, kindergartners could feel pressured to recite the pledge, said Dr. Wermiel, who teaches classes on constitutional law and the Supreme Court. The point of the Supreme Court’s ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette is to not make it difficult for someone to opt out and to not feel pressured. Constitutional questions would hinge on that.
“Putting it on the report card seems to make it more coercive,” he said. “I think it adds to the pressure that the state is applying to profess this belief.”
Several teachers interviewed for the story seem to think that this is an unfounded concern.
Jane Lampton, principal at Barton Elementary, said she does not think children feel pressured to say the pledge.
“It’s no big deal. We have several children who do not participate in it. It’s part of their religious beliefs,” she said. “I haven’t had any parent come to me.”
Ed Gonzalez, an elementary teacher who is also president of the Association of Texas Professional Educators in Irving, said he has not heard concerns from teachers about pledge requirements. He has had students who do not recite the pledge.
“I don’t make an issue of it. I don’t think any teacher would. It’s not a big deal.”
Trustee Michael Hill said he believes the district’s policy has enough leeway to prevent students from feeling pressured.
“Irving, historically, whether it’s the school district or the community, has been a very conservative community,” he said. “I’m a supporter of it.”
Which is fine and all, but one line in the story caught my attention:
- The district maintains records on the number of students districtwide who request not to say the pledge.
I realize I’m showing my cynical side again, but if this is no big deal then why does the district maintain records on the number of students who refuse to recite the pledges?