Pledge or Perish: Eighth Graders Suspended for Lack of Patriotic Respect

In Minnesota, three eighth graders have been suspended for sitting during the pledge of allegiance. The principal of Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Junior High School states that, while they are not constitutionally required to recite the pledge, they must still stand for the pledge. It is difficult to see how students are protected from pledging but must give the outward appearance of approving or respecting the pledge and flag.

The handbook requires standing and Mel Olson, the district’s community education director, says the students got what they deserved: “These three [students] didn’t, and they got caught . . . being a veteran and a United States of America citizen, absolutely.” Olson is a former Marine from World War II.

As much as I respect Olson’s service, I would suggest that he was fighting for the very liberties that these students are asserting in the case. Free speech and free exercise are the touchstones of the American system, not forced compliance and conformity.
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20 thoughts on “Pledge or Perish: Eighth Graders Suspended for Lack of Patriotic Respect”

  1. Mespo,

    I’m always interested to read what you have to say. Keep up your good work!
    Jill

  2. Seth:

    My oath was always to protect the idea of America embodied in the Constitution, not some dyed cloth or old parchment. Anything else is a betrayal of this Country and its unique and lofty ideals. Symbols stand for other more important things, not the other way ’round.

    I hope this is what motivates me to comment when I perceive challenges to those ideals. I am sure there are many advocates more articulate and better informed than me (many of them contribute to this blog), but I like to think there are none more sincere.

  3. Jason:

    “There are a lot of symbols in life. When you see a douglas fur you think of christmas. The American flag with its broad strips and bright stars isn’t just a piece cloth, it a symol [sic] of this country’s history, and the men and women that have died for your freedoms…”
    ***************
    ….you see uninformed, authoritarian statements made by those supposedly supporting what the Country is all about to mandate patriotism by means of corporal punishment, and you think what happened to our educational system?

  4. Don’t diss the 8th graders, man! They may be kids, their perspective may be limited, but they may well have given this far more thought than most adults.

    What about foreign students, e.g., exchange students. Are they required to recite the pledge? (Of course not.) To stand?

    As for the pledge itself, remember that it was created as a marketing ploy to sell youth magazines. By a socialist. And it is horrid as an oath of fealty.

    Compare the insipid

    “I pledge allegance to [a piece of cloth]…” [*]

    with

    “I swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,…”

    I know which one I consider the true mark of citizenship.

    [*] I know, ‘… and the republic for which it stands.” But that doesn’t change the fact that the primary pledge is to a piece of cloth. And what does this mean, anyway? Am I swearing to run into a burning building to rescue any flags within?

  5. It’s really sad to see the state our country has come to. I stood for the Pledge. And they should too. But your right they shouldn’t have been suspended, they should have been taken to the principals office a given a few good swings of the paddle and sent back to class. I can bet that they would be standing after that. And it should have happened long before eight grade. There are a lot of symbols in life. When you see a douglas fur you think of christmas. The American flag with its broad strips and bright stars isn’t just a piece cloth, it a symol of this country’s history, and the men and women that have died for your freedoms. So yes you should be made to stand and pay respect saying thank you for all they gave. And as for forced patroitism there sould be no force needed, if can’t stand and give this simple gesture or you don’t whell up pride to be an American when you see that flag fly then you need to leave. I don’t think life in communist China is as nice.

  6. binx101:

    “…those charged with shaping minds and caring for our kids opt to pull out their now tight military uniforms and have peeing contests with eight graders.”
    ***************************

    I really did laugh out loud at this one!

  7. Indeed … this is only news because of the overreaction of school officials. It’s this feeding frenzy about appearing to be free – yet when put to the test – those charged with shaping minds and caring for our kids opt to pull out their now tight military uniforms and have peeing contests with eight graders.

    When I was in eight grade we had the same thing too. No body read about it … no news papers and no giant protests. It was time when we were learning about civics in our schools The teachers new how to handle this as a win-win. What they didn’t do is start suspending people. Particularly students that were highly likely to be drafted and sent Viet Nam, to allegedly preserve freedom.

    We were fortunate and talked it out and came up with compromises that permitted protest without offending the conformers.

  8. dunder:

    You are probably right about the kids motivation or lack thereof. That doesn’t alter the point that the school system overreacted and suspended these kids in violation of the law and good sense out of some warped view of patriotism. I am more struck by the fact that these teachers and administrators have so little idea what freedom means. And the biggest offender was a guy who fought for it. Open displays of patriotism don’t impress me much — forced displays, even less so. I don’t stand and profess my love for my wife every morning at the State’s direction, do you think it really matters in my affections for her? Why should it matter with these kids and their country?

  9. As the truth slowly comes out – these kids did not have chutzpaw, courage, or anything like the liberals think was motivating this. The kids were just being KIDS – eight graders – and when asked why they would not stand – they simply did not know why they did it.

  10. Let’s face it. Kids do lots of things to get attention. I have an eighth grader, and I could see him doing something like this because he understands (thanks to his parents and no thanks to the school) what is happening in this country. But the fact is that children should not relinquish their constitutional rights when they enter the school. Schools should be a safe haven of free speech, but we don’t teach our children about free speech or any other freedom guaranteed by the constitution. I hope that the parents have some understanding that will prompt them to support their children and, in the process, all children who are being told what to think and how to think it.

  11. Jill,

    Not for nothing; but one of the motivational factors that pushed me to run away to law school, aside from a nonsensical essay by Derrida that made me ask “what am I doing reading this crap” was the Rehnquist dissent in “Texas v. Johnson.”

    Flag burning case from the late 1980’s. I figured if the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court could rely on songs and poems and appeals to emotion for his argument, how hard could law school actually be?

    Regards,

    Bob

    P.S. That dissent is in my top ten most pathetic arguments ever made by a Supreme Court justice.

  12. I agree with the consensus that these students were brave. I would be interested in seeing if there is a law suit filed on this issue. It does seem to be an obvious 1st Amendment violation. The parents may not be willing or able to take this to court.

  13. Bob,

    Here’s one of my favorite bumper stickers involving pictures of the confederate flag and the Lincoln head penny. It says: If this flag were fying your head wouldn’t be on this penny.

    You should show more respect wipper snapper!

    Jill

  14. This is hysterical!

    I did the same thing during 8th grade homeroom. I told the kid who always sat behind me (alphabetical) that I didn’t feel like pledging anything to a piece of cloth. He laughed and dared me to do it.

    Sure enough, Mr. Gravino (a vet and Latin teacher) gave me the speech, in front of the entire homeroom, about my lack of respect for all those who sacrificed preserving the ideals that the flag stood for, I maintained (something to the effect within an 8th grader vernacular) that I wasn’t confusing a piece of cloth with the people and ideals, he got frustrated, sent me to the principal’s office and I was thence sent home for the day.

    For years my mother would remind how humiliated she felt picking me up at school that day.

    She eventually got over it.

    Especially when I explained what Lord Scalia did with her vote on 12/9/2000.

    Regards,

    Bob

  15. Just to be clear, I don’t think they need reasons. It’s their right and yes, it shows courage. Indeed, it has not be respected regardless of one’s reasons. I was just curious.

  16. How very curious that Olson put his life on the line for a Country he knows so little about. Freedom of conscience does not require one to state the reasons for exercise of his rights. That “chutzpah” cited by huntingdonpost has tided us over for many years.

  17. Hi huntingdonpost,

    I think these students showed courage. Demands to “respect” the flag are patriotic idolotry. The state does not own anyone’s speech and attempts to violate the conscience of others is repugnant.

    Jill

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