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Federal judge: Students can't be forced to stand for Pledge

By The Associated Press
06.02.06

Editor's note: According to an Associated Press report, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said on June 2 that it was unlikely the state would appeal the federal judge's ruling concerning the Pledge of Allegiance. However, Bush said attorneys for the state were examining the ruling and an appeal might be filed if they believed it could succeed.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A federal judge ruled yesterday that it is unconstitutional to require a student to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Senior U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp also ruled that a student does not have to get a parent's permission to be excused from reciting the pledge.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state Board of Education and state Education Commissioner John Winn on behalf of a Boynton Beach High School student who said he was disciplined for not standing during the pledge last year.

Cameron Frazier, then a 17-year-old junior, was told by teacher Cynthia Alexandre that he was "so ungrateful and so un-American" after he twice refused to stand for the pledge in her classroom Nov. 8, the lawsuit said.

Requiring Frazier to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance is "in violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights," the lawsuit said.

The Palm Beach County School Board voted in February that students do not have to recite the pledge or stand for it, but the lawsuit was challenging a state law that says the pledge needs to be recited at the beginning of the day at all elementary, middle and high schools.

"This is a decision about freedom and freedom in America means your right to not recite the Pledge of Allegiance or your right to recite the Pledge of Allegiance," said Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida ACLU. "The impact that we hope this decision will have is that school officials begin to respect the conscience and dignity of young people."

Simon said he did not know if it was the first time that Florida's law had been challenged in court.

Kathy Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education said the agency was disappointed with the ruling.

"Our attorneys are reviewing the ruling to see if any further action can be taken," Schroeder said.

Attempts to reach Frazier through his attorney Randall Marshall were not immediately successful.

As part of a settlement with the Palm Beach County School District, Frazier will get $32,500 and Alexandre will be reprimanded in writing.


Update
11th Circuit: State can't force students to stand for Pledge
But panel agrees with part of statute that allows parents to have ultimate say over whether their children will take part in daily recitation. 07.24.08

Previous
Fla. student sues over Pledge of Allegiance
High school junior says he was punished for refusing to stand during the recitation. 12.26.05

Related

Pa. drops loyalty oath for candidates

Change was ordered after John Staggs refused to sign McCarthy-era pledge when he turned in nominating petitions for legislatve seat and threatened to sue the state. 08.28.06

Texas adds 'under God' to state Pledge
By Courtney Holliday Bill author says measure was meant to make state oath mirror national one, but critics say new law could violate students' religious liberties. 07.11.07

Minn. students suspended for not standing for Pledge
Junior high principal says school officials are reevaluating policy requiring pupils to rise for, but not necessarily recite, oath. 05.12.08

Pledge of Allegiance in public schools

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