April 15, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) Carlisle, PA — In another all-too-common occurrence, a public school student was punished by a school official for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance. At Wilson Middle School in Pennsylvania, a nurse told a teenage girl that if she refused to say or stand for the pledge, she could refuse the right to treat her.
The eighth grader contacted the American Humanist Association to file a complaint which resulted in a letter to the Carlisle County School District from attorney Monica Miller. It detailed the student’s version of events:
‘Why didn’t you stand for the Pledge?’ the nurse reportedly asked loudly. The student said that she explained that she had the right not to participate. ‘Fine! Then leave! I have the right to not service you!’ the student said the nurse shouted in reply.
When the girl left the nurse’s office to call her mother, the nurse reportedly yelled,
She isn’t calling a parent until I have a long conversation with her!
When the student met with a counselor, he told her that while she didn’t have to recite the pledge, she should stand in the hallway while others did so. According to Miller,
The student politely tried to explain that she is under no obligation to stand in the hallway as such, to which the counselor replied that it was ‘district policy,’ apparently unaware that ‘district policy’ does not trump federal law.
Across the country, students have been reprimanded for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance in its entirety or at all. They are even reprimanded for insinuating that it is not required
— even though the 1943 Supreme Court case, West Virginia Board State Board of Education v. Barnette established that no one could be forced to recite it.
In Miller’s letter, which demanded an apology to the eighth grader, she summarized the dangers of forcing students to recite a pledge to their country and flag:
The actions of the nurse are indefensible, as she provides an example of the kind of overzealous, dangerous patriotism that any true patriot would loathe. […] Moreover, the nurse’s refusal to give the child medical attention calls into question her fitness for the job.
While students are routinely punished for legally not saying this pledge, this instance is particularly disturbing. That a medical practitioner would refuse to treat a student in need of medical assistance (it is unclear why she was in the nurse’s office) over what amounts to a nationalistic poem shows how deluded blind patriotism can cause people to become.
While it seems benign to pledge such loyalty, forcing a student to recite words they do not want to is unacceptable. Worse, the values the pledge of allegiance claims to honor are repeatedly trampled. “With liberty and justice for all” are now archaic terms, written in a time (1892) when such privileges were not afforded to “all” citizens. Over a century later, the progress made with the repeal of Jim Crow laws and desegregation has been cancelled out by policies that oppress citizens of all colors (and still disproportionately affect minorities).
This adherence to symbols of the state is but a small manifestation of the militant nationalism that permeates American society. It is the same attachment to “being American” that has authorized perpetual war, police brutality, domestic spying, and virtually anything politicians care to justify under the guise of patriotism.
The Carlisle School District said it is aware of the complaint from the American Humanist Association and is currently investigating it. In spite of this, it is clear that a simple apology is not enough to combat the deeply embedded culture of obedience that runs rampant in public schools, institutions, and in the minds of authoritarian Americans.
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