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Do Your Kids Have Constitutional Rights at School?

If you’ve attended a public school in America, you know that every day for the entire school year you stood up, put your hand on your chest and recited the pledge of allegiance.

It normally happens in the morning as students arrive to school. The speaker system will announce, “please stand for the pledge of allegiance.” Twenty to 30 students, along with faculty, will stop what they are doing to participate in the time-honored tradition.

Recently, a Baltimore middle school student was reprimanded after she refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance. That situation happened in Maryland but what if a Florida student decides to consistently sit or take a knee during the pledge of allegiance?

“I think a lot of kids think they think they don’t have rights and I think that as parents we need to let them know they have a voice and it should be heard” – Maria Colon, Parent

The defiance of standing for the pledge of allegiance has received increased attention following a former National Football League quarterback taking a knee in multiple games during its broadcast. It has since lead to a nationwide conversation about the merits of protesting the pledge of allegiance and whether it is appropriate.

It should come as no surprise that many children look up to the quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, and the dozens of NFL athletes who followed his lead. Children kneeling during the pledge of allegiance has during several youth football games. It has also been seen in the classrooms in SWFL.

The state of Florida education code clarifies the issue. “The student must be excused from reciting the pledge,” it said, “including standing and placing the right hand over his or her heart” if the person has written permission from their parents. Only with written permission from a parent, can the child be excused from standing for the pledge of allegiance.

The Supreme Court addressed this issue in a 1969 ruling. The case, Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District , discussed whether students free rights should be protected.

The students organized a silent protest against the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to school. When the principle found out, he delivered an ultimatum: stop wearing the armbands or you will be suspended.

Parents of the students sued the school. They claimed a violation of the students’ right to free speech. The U.S. district court ruled against them, along with the U.S. Court of Appeals.

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the students. It said, “students don’t shed their constitutional rights at the school house gates.”

Reporting by Allyssa Dickert and Michael Adam Mora

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