Of the 53 states and territories in this survey (the 50 states plus Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands), 43 require public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Only one state, Wisconsin, also requires private-school students to do so.
The prototypical statute is West Virginia’s. It reads: “Every instructional day in the public schools of this state shall be commenced with a Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. Pupils who do not wish to participate in this exercise shall be excused from making such Pledge.”
Pennsylvania had until quite recently the most stringent Pledge requirement: if a student did not wish to recite the Pledge, his parents would receive written notice. In 2004, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held the Pennsylvania statute unconstitutional, and the state Senate has proposed, but the Legislature has not yet implemented, an amended version. 2005 PA S.B. 296 (SN); Circle Schools v. Pappert, 381 F.3d 172 (3d. 2004).
On its face, the Delaware statute requires every public school student to recite the Pledge — no exceptions. This statute has not been challenged in court.
Below, the Pledge requirements and citations are listed alphabetically by state/territory.
The current Alabama statute reads: “The State Board of Education shall afford all students attending public kindergarten, primary and secondary schools the opportunity each school day to voluntarily recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States Flag.” Ala. Code § 16-43-5 (2005).
An amendment to this statute is pending. The amendment would require the daily recitation of the Pledge in all public schools. Neither students who are foreign citizens nor students who submit written requests for exemption would be required to recite the Pledge.
Alaska requires the Pledge to be recited regularly in all public schools. However, both students and teachers have the right not to participate in the Pledge, and each school district must inform its students and employees of this right. Alaska Stat. §14.03.130 (2005).
Arizona requires each public school to set aside time each day so that students who wish to recite the Pledge may do so. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. 15-506 (2005).
Arkansas requires each student in its public schools, at the appropriate time, to stand facing the American flag, and while either placing his hand over his heart or saluting if in uniform, recite the Pledge of Allegiance. If a student does not wish to recite the Pledge, or if his legal guardian does not want him to, he or she may either stand silently with the class or sit quietly at his or her desk. Ark. Code Ann. §6-16-108 (2005).
The state requires the daily performance of “patriotic exercises” in all public schools; the statute states explicitly that reciting the Pledge fulfills this requirement. For primary schools, these exercises are to take place at the beginning of the first class period at which a majority of students begin the school day. For secondary schools, the “governing body of the district maintaining the secondary school” decides the time and manner in which the patriotic exercises are to be conducted. Although California requires “patriotic exercises,” there is no facial requirement that students take part in them. Educ. §52720 (2005).
“Each school district shall provide an opportunity each school day for willing students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public elementary and secondary educational institutions. Any person not wishing to participate in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance shall be exempt from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and need not participate.” Colo. Rev. Stat. §22-1-106.
“Each local and regional board of education shall develop a policy to ensure that time is available each school day for students in the schools under its jurisdiction to recite the ‘Pledge of Allegiance.’ The provisions of this subsection shall not be construed to require any person to recite the ‘Pledge of Allegiance.’” Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-230(c) (2005).
“In the opening exercises of every free public school each morning, the teachers and pupils assembled shall salute and Pledge Allegiance to the American flag.” Del. Code Ann. tit. 14 §4105 (2005).
District of Columbia
No statutes found.
“The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag shall be recited at the beginning of the day in each public elementary, middle, and high school in the state. Each student shall be informed by posting a notice in a conspicuous place that the student has the right not to participate in reciting the Pledge. Upon written request by his or her parent, the student must be excused from reciting the Pledge.” Fla. Stat. Ann. §1003.44 (2005); see also Fla. Stat. Ann. §1002.20(12) (2005) (reiterating the right of students not to participate in the recitation of the Pledge).
The state requires that every public school student be “afforded the opportunity” to recite the Pledge each day. Local school boards determine the time and manner of recitation. Ga. Code Ann. §20-2-310 (2005).
No statutes found.
Every public school is to begin its day with either the Pledge of Allegiance or national anthem. No pupil shall be compelled, against the pupil's objections or those of the pupil's parent or guardian, to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or to sing the national anthem. Idaho Code Ann. §33-1602(4)-(5) (2005).
The Pledge of Allegiance shall be recited each school day by pupils in elementary and secondary educational institutions supported or maintained in whole or in part by public funds. 105 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/27-3 (2005). The statute says each student must recite the Pledge each day — with no exception for those who do not wish to do so. However, in a federal lawsuit that was filed, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the statute did not violate the students’ rights, so long as students were free not to participate in the recitation of the Pledge. Sherman v. Community Consol. School Dist. 21 of Wheeling Tp., 980 F.2d 437 (7th Cir. 1992).
“The governing body of each school corporation shall provide a daily opportunity for students of the school corporation to voluntarily recite the Pledge of Allegiance in each classroom or on school grounds. A student is exempt from participation in the Pledge of Allegiance and may not be required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance if: (1) the student chooses to not participate; or (2) the student's parent chooses to have the student not participate.” Ind. Code §20-30-5-0.5.
No statutes found.
The state requires a daily recitation of the Pledge in public schools. Kan. Stat. Ann. §72-5300(1) (2005). No provision is made for students who do not wish to recite the Pledge.
School boards may authorize the voluntary recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance in public schools; students shall be informed that the recitation is not for purposes of molding the belief of students, but rather to remind students of their American liberties, including the freedom of religion. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 158.175(1) (2005).
The next section of the same statute mandates that each public school student be given the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of each school day (students who do not wish to recite the Pledge may remain in their seats). Id. at (2).
“Each parish and city school board in the state shall also permit the proper authorities of each school to allow the opportunity for group recitation of the ‘Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.’ Such recitation shall occur at the commencement of the first class of each day in all grades and in all public schools.” La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §17:2115(B).
No statute found.
The state requires all students and “teachers in charge” to stand, face the American flag, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Any student or teacher who wishes to be excused will be excused. Md. Code Ann., Education, § 7-105(c)(3)-(d) (2005).
“Each teacher at the commencement of the first class of each day in all grades in all public schools shall lead the class in a group recitation of the ‘Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.’” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71 §69 (2005).
The state has no statute requiring school children to recite the Pledge. Federal courts in Michigan have ruled that patriotic songs and recitations of the Pledge are permissible at any time, so long as they are voluntary. Reed v. Van Hoven, 237 F.Supp. 48 (W.D.Mich. 1965).
Students in each public school are to recite the Pledge every day, led either by teachers or teachers’ surrogates in the classroom, or over a school intercom. Each school district may waive this requirement by majority vote, and either institute its own Pledge policy or simply not require the recitation of the Pledge. If the requirement is not waived, each district or school that publishes a school handbook must insert in the handbook a notification that any student who does not wish to recite the Pledge will not be required to do so, and that the other students must respect this student’s right to make such a choice. Minn. Stat. § 121A.11-3 (2005).
Mississippi requires all students and teachers to recite the Pledge at the start of classes each day school is in session. If any student or teacher objects to reciting the Pledge, he or she shall be excused from doing so without penalty. Miss. Code Ann. § 37-13-6(2) (2005).
The Pledge of Allegiance shall be recited at least once a week, at the beginning of at least one class of every pupil enrolled at a particular school. Participation is not required. Mo. Rev. Stat. §171.021(2) (2005).
The Pledge must be recited each school day, led by either teachers or their surrogates or over the intercom. The school district shall inform all teachers and students of their right not to participate in the Pledge. If any student or teacher objects to reciting the Pledge for any reason, he does not have to do so, and may instead engage in the nondisruptive alternative activity of his choosing. In evaluating teachers and students, the school district may not include any reference to the student’s or teacher’s not reciting. Mon. Code Ann. §20-7-133 (2005).
No statutes found.
“Each public school shall set aside appropriate time at the beginning of each school day for pupils to Pledge their Allegiance to the flag of the United States. In addition, each public school may set aside appropriate time during the school day for additional patriotic observance.” Nev. Rev. Stat. §389.040.
Each school must authorize a period of time during the school day for voluntarily reciting the Pledge. Any student who does not wish to recite the Pledge may either stand silently or sit quietly. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §194:15-c II-III (2005).
The Pledge is to be said each day by all students, standing with hand over heart. Those with “conscientious scruples against such Pledge” may opt out, as may the children of foreign representatives to whom the United States extends diplomatic immunity. Boys are required to remove all forms of headdress. N.J. Stat. Ann. §18A:36-3(c).
“Local school boards shall provide that the Pledge of Allegiance shall be recited daily in each public school in the school district according to regulations adopted by the state board.” N.M. Stat. §22-5-4.5 (2005). Neither the statute nor the administrative regulations based on it provide an opt-out for students who do not wish to recite the Pledge, but the matter does not seem to have been litigated. N.M. Stat. §22-5-4.5; N.M. Admin. Code 6.10.2 (2005).
The relevant statute requires an unelaborated daily recitation of the Pledge. N.Y. Educ. Law § 802 (2005). The matter has never been fully litigated, but case law suggests that students in New York have the right not to participate in reciting the Pledge, and to protest silently while it is being recited. See Frain v. Baron, 307 F.Supp. 27 (E.D.N.Y. 1969).
Local school boards are urged to adopt policies to promote the recitation of the Pledge. The districts are not required to do so, nor, if they do, are students required to recite. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-47(29)(a) (2005).
“A school board may authorize the voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by a teacher or one or more students at the beginning of each schoolday. A student may not be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, stand during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, or salute the American flag.” N.D. Cent. Code § 15.1-19-03.1(4) (2005).
Each local school district is to decide whether, and in what manner, to recite the Pledge. If a school district does decide to recite, no student will be required to do so; and if a student does not recite, he may not be intimidated because of his decision. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3313.602(A) (2005).
Students are “authorized” to recite the Pledge at the beginning of each school day. Notices shall be posted in conspicuous places that students are not required to do so. 70 Okla. Stat. Ann. § 24-106(C) (2005).
No statutes found.
Until recently, the state had a strong Pledge requirement. The requirement extended to all schools, both public and private, and, while students for reasons of conscience could choose not to recite the Pledge, parents would be notified in writing of such a refusal. 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 7-771 (2005). In 2004, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held this statute unconstitutional, and the Pennsylvania Senate has proposed an amended version; the bill was introduced in the House in Jan. 2006. Circle Schools v. Pappert, 381 F.3d 172 (3rd Cir. 2004). The proposed amendment would not apply to private schools and remove the parental-notification provision. 2005 PA S.B. 296 (SN).
No statutes found.
All grades in all public schools are to begin the day with the Pledge, but no student may be required to recite. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-22-11(a)-(b) (2005).
The Pledge shall be said in public schools on each school day, at a time to be determined by the local school. Anyone who chooses not to participate may do so, and express his non-participation in any way he chooses, so long as it is nondisruptive and does not infringe on the rights of others. Students may not be penalized for non-participation. S.C. Code Ann. § 59-1-455 (2005).
The right to recite the Pledge of Allegiance shall not be limited or infringed upon in any public school classroom. There is no provision for a mandatory recitation. S.D. Codified Laws § 13-24-17.2 (2005).
All public school students are required to learn the Pledge, and it shall be said in every classroom in which there is an American flag, at a time of the school board’s choosing. There is no requirement to have an American flag in every classroom. Where the Pledge is said, students, faculty and staff may choose not to join in. If a student makes this choice, he is either to stand or sit silently. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-1001(c)(1) (2005).
The board of trustees for each school district is to make guidelines for the saying of the Pledge once a day in every school. If a student does not wish to recite the Pledge, he need not do so, upon submission of a written request from his parent or guardian. Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 25.082(b)-(c) (2005).
Public primary-school students are to recite the Pledge once a day, and public secondary-school students once a week. Notices shall be posted in conspicuous places outlining a student’s right not to participate. If a student does not wish to participate, he may opt out via a written request from his or her parent or guardian. Utah Code Ann. § 53A-13-101.6(3) (2005).
No statutes found.
No statutes found.
All public school students are required to recite the Pledge, facing the flag, hand over heart or saluting if in uniform. If a student or his parent or guardian objects, the student may sit silently or stand quietly. The statute also instructs the Board of Education and Attorney General to develop guidelines so that recitation of the Pledge meets constitutional requirements. Va. Code Ann. §22.1-202(B)-(C) (2005). In 2005, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Virginia’s statute does not violate the establishment clause of the Constitution, because the recitation of the Pledge is a patriotic activity, not a religious one. Myers v. Loudoun County Public Schools, 418 F.3d 395 (4th Cir. 2005).
Students in public schools who wish to recite the Pledge shall do so before all school assemblies and “immediately before interschool events, when feasible.” At the beginning of each school day, and at the beginning of each school assembly, “appropriate flag exercises” shall take place in each classroom. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.230.140 (2005).
“Every instructional day in the public schools of this state shall be commenced with a Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. Pupils who do not wish to participate in this exercise shall be excused from making such Pledge.” W. Va. Code § 18-5-15b (2005).
Students in public schools shall begin the day with the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem. Students in private schools shall also begin the day with the Pledge or the Anthem, unless doing so would conflict with the school’s religious doctrines. Neither public nor private school students must recite the Pledge if they do not want to. Wis. Stat. Ann. 118.06 (2005).
No statutes found.
Peyton Cooke is a third-year law student at Vanderbilt University Law School.