Student Punished for Not Saying Pledge of Allegiance

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Middle Schooler ‘Bullied’ By Teacher for Not Saying Pledge of Allegiance ( ENSPIRE NEWS ) Student Punished for Not Saying Pledge of Allegiance When Fatima Smart refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at Monadnock Regional Middle School, she claims her teacher chastised her in front of the whole class and kicked her out of the room. (Photo: Manchester Hearst Properties Inc.) Fourteen-year-old Fatima Smart stood up for her rights by not standing up for the Pledge of Allegiance in school — and the student says she and her family would like an apology for the flak her teacher gave her for it. “I don’t like our government at all,” the Monadnock Regional Middle Schooler from Swanzey, New Hampshire, told WMUR 9 on Tuesday. “I think they are making bad decisions, and I didn’t stand. [The teacher] kind of used me as an example in front of the class to say that, ‘You have to stand for the flag salute, or you can be like Fatima and wait outside.’” Smart says after she refused to rise for the pledge two months ago, the teacher kicked her out of class and also lectured her in front of classmates. “I believe it was a personal issue for [the teacher],” Smart’s mother Kerry Boscarino tells Yahoo Parenting. “She said that she was the daughter of a military man and found it offensive because of that. But I really don’t think that my daughter sitting for the pledge is an attack on the military in any way, shape, or form.” Smart’s parents told WMUR that if an apology isn’t issued, they’ll consider going court. “We’ve been trying to make peace with her for months,” says Boscarino about the educator, whom she says refuses to meet with the family or discuss the incident. “They intimidated and humiliated our daughter in front of her class,” Smart’s stepfather Steve Boscarino told WMUR, insisting that the teacher broke a state bullying law with her actions. “And now it’s become a public spectacle because of their lack of humility to extend an apology.” Embarrassment aside, the teen stands by her sit-down. “I don’t like pretending to believe in something I don’t believe in just to please other people,” Smart said. “They have their rights, and I have mine.” And she is well within her rights to opt out of the pledge, according to American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Rowland. “The Supreme Court ruling that states students cannot be forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance is over 70 years old and no public school in the country has the right to force a student to participate in it,” the New York City-based free speech lawyer tells Yahoo Parenting. Yet incidents like Smart’s continue to occur in what Rowland describes as a “steady trickle.” Just last month an 8th grader in Carlisle, Penn. alleged that after she refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in the nurse’s office, the aide wouldn’t tend to her. In October, a 9th grader in Ventura County, Calif., reported to the American Humanist Association’s Don’t Say the Pledge campaign that he was “intimidated” by his teacher to stand for the recitation. “I’m not aware of any other constitutional right so clearly established for such a long time that is unfortunately continually violated by officials,” says Rowland. “It’s astounding.” The fact that the onus rests on kids to resist pressure and assert their rights is one reason that she thinks these violations continue to occur. “Unfortunately kids aren’t in the best position to defend themselves,” Rowland explains. “Students are in a relatively disempowered position in school. And when teachers or any authority figure tells you to do something you tend to believe it’s true. That’s an unfair and confusing position to put anyone in, let alone a minor.” Smart’s situation, though, is more complicated than she or the family is letting on, Keith Pfeifer, interim Superintendent of Schools for Monadnock Regional Middle School, tells Yahoo Parenting. “There’s much more to this,” he says, refusing to get into detail about what he has discussed with the Smart family and with the teacher involved, from whose classroom Smart has been removed. “But there are two sides to every story.” What Pfeifer will confirm is that the schools in his district are in full compliance with the law, allowing any student to refrain from participating in the pledge. “This is the first time this issue has come up here and we have dealt with it systematically, with the individual teacher and with the full faculty, apprising them of their educational responsibility to allow someone not to stand.” In the future, he adds, “We will also be putting it in student handbook and things so it’s even more clear what expectations are.” As for Smart’s claim that she was bullied by the teacher for not standing during the pledge, Rowland calls the educator’s alleged behavior “indefensible.” She adds: “The only person who should be humiliated is the teacher who is supposed to uphold the Constitution and violated it with one of her students.” SOURCE What are your thoughts on Pledging Allegiance? Should it be mandatory?]]>

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