PALM BEACH SCHOOL BOARD AGREES THAT STUDENTS DONT HAVE TO STAND AND SAY PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE-Andrew Stelzer02/02/06
The Palm Beach county school district has suspended its policy of forcing students to stand during the pledge of allegiance. The decision was in response to a lawsuit filed by a 17 year old whoâ€™s protesting the Bush Administration, and the lawsuit may end up overturning the Florida state law which requires students to stand during the pledge. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer has the story.
ACT-green â€œthe states canâ€™t make laws that violate the constitution..â€?
James green is the attorney representing Boyton beach high student Cameron Frazier. He says a Supreme Court decision in 1943 in a West Virginia case outweighs the 1942 Florida state law requiring students to stand during the pledge.
ACT-green â€œthe school board recognizes the US constitution is the law of the land and any state law that goes against that must be struck down..â€?
ACT-green â€œwell I thought it was smart of the part of the school board their attorneys realized that s similar statute in west Virginia has been declared unconstitutional in 43 in the middle of world war 2..â€?
Cameron Frazier never had been confronted about refusing to stand before, but on December 8th, the pledge took place during a different period that usual. According to the lawsuit. Frazierâ€™s 4th period math class teacher, Cynthia Alexander, "began to berate Cameron" when he didnâ€™t stand. The suit says that Alexandre called Frazier "so ungrateful and so un-American.", and said "See your desk? Now look at mine. Big desk, little desk. You obviously don't know your place in this classroom." Nat Harrington is the spokesman for the Palm Beach county school district.
ACT-Harr â€œit appears that he encountered a teacher that was to familiar, and the teacher appears to have been acting in an appropriate way..â€?
The settlement agreement awards $32,500 to the studentâ€™s family. The school district also agreed that students will not be required to stand for the pledge of allegiance, and they will not need any parental permission to refuse to recite the pledge. The teacher will also receive a letter of reprimand, and will not be able to protest the punishment. Harrington says the public response to the decision has been mixed.
ACT-Harr â€œthere have been a few letters, pretty balanced, some taking one side, one the other saying its not unreasonable, others have taken the position thats its every persons right, we understand both positions ..â€?
Green, who is also a volunteer attorney for the ACLU, added the state board of education and the state commissioner of education to the lawsuit 2 weeks ago,
ACT-green â€œpatriotism is important but liberty of thought and expression is more important itâ€™s at the core of American values..â€?
Green is arguing that the law is unconstitutional, violating the First and 14th amendments. Frazier had been refusing to stand during the pledge since 6th grade, which was the year President Bush took office.
ACT-green â€œhe had a silent protest by sitting down, it was against the policies of this administrationâ€¦â€?
In 1970, a federal court ruled that Dade countyâ€™s policy of requiring students to stand during the pledge was unconstitutional, but that ruling did not apply anywhere outside Dade county. The case against the state board of Ed, however, will apply state wide, and Harrington said Palm Beach is waiting.
ACT-Harrington â€œthe district is aware of the challenge and in recognition, we are doing what we thin is responsible and defensible which is not to require students to do it until they can be reconcliled..so well watch very carefully to see what they should advise employees to do..â€?
In the meantime, all employees in the Palm Beach school district have been instructed that students are free to remain seated during the pledge. Harrington says he hopes the public understands the districts position is one ground in a belief in American Democracy.
ACT-Harr â€œwe are a nation of laws and our laws change they are passed, taken off the books and as a nation of laws teaching young people to respect the rule of law, we want to make sure we are going by the lawâ€¦hers how you behave, you find the legal ground that you should stand on and wait for legal guidance..â€?
The state board of education cannot comment on ongoing cases. They have until February 8th to file a response to the lawsuit.
For WMNF news, Iâ€™m Andrew Stelzer