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Are public school students required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance?

No, public school students may not be compelled to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In its 1943 decision West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the First Amendment protects a student’s right not to engage in certain speech. The First Amendment generally prohibits the government from punishing people for engaging in certain speech. In Barnette, the high court extended the reach of the First Amendment to also prohibit the government from compelling speech.

The high court determined that a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who objected to the flag salute and mandatory pledge recitation for religious reasons, could not be forced to participate.

In oft-quoted language, Justice Robert Jackson wrote: "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."


Do students have to stand and remove their hats during the Pledge?

No, you do not have to stand up and take off your hat during the Pledge of Allegiance. In the 1943 case West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, the Supreme Court said students who objected to the flag salute and mandatory pledge recitation for religious reasons could not be forced to participate.

Although Barnette pertains to reciting the pledge, in the case Lipp v. Morris (1978) the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a New Jersey statute requiring a student to stand during the pledge as unconstitutional.

As explored in Lipp and Barnette, a fundamental constitutional right is that no government official at any level can force conduct from any citizen regarding an expression of religion, politics, nationalism, or matter of opinion.


Can students be forced to stand while other students recite the Pledge?

No, two courts have held that students cannot be forced to stand while other students recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In Goetz v. Ansell (1973) and Lipp v. Morris (1978), the 2nd and 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, respectively, ruled that public school students could not be forced to stand silently while other students recited the pledge. The 2nd Circuit in Goetz explained: “the alternative offered plaintiff of standing in silence is an act that cannot be compelled over his deeply held convictions. It can no more be required than the pledge itself.”



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