Under U.S. law, public school students cannot be compelled to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. When one teacher in Virginia noticed a student sitting during the pledge, he allegedly forcibly removed the boy from class and forced him to stand outside in cold weather. The teacher no longer teaches in the school district.
On Nov. 14, student Eric Trammel remained seated for the Pledge of Allegiance during his driver's education class at Centreville High School in Virginia. Trammel, who is black, had been quietly demonstrating against the pledge for nearly a year to protest against racial injustice.
"The country is in a very divided place right now and there's a lot of injustices around the U.S.," Trammel told The Washington Post. "I feel like me sitting can spread awareness of that. I don't believe in forcing other people to sit ... That's just my personal decision."
Trammel's teacher, Richard Ferrick, noticed him sitting down and ordered him to stand at attention. Travis said he declined and alleged that Ferrick grabbed him by his arm and forced him outside of the classroom and into chilly weather.
"He was really angry when he grabbed my arm," Trammel said. "I just never really saw it coming."
Trammel, 15, said he waited 20 minutes outside of the class before asking if he could be let back inside. Ferrick reportedly told him that he was not welcome back inside until he stood for the pledge and added, "This isn't the NFL."
The student resolved to involve school administrators, who escorted him back into the classroom. Trammel said Ferrick pulled him aside after class ended and told him that he had a lesser opinion of him.
"He told me that our relationship had drastically changed, that what he thought of me was different," Trammel said.
Trammel's family contacted an attorney, Maxwelle Sokol, who said Ferrick's disciplinary action had violated Trammel's rights. In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public school students could not be forced to partake in the pledge.
"I understand this a hot topic right now with [former NFL quarterback] Colin Kaepernick," Sokol told WTTG. "But our country is built on values that allow you to express yourself as you see fit -- within reasonable limits obviously. But choosing to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance is about as benign a show of your personal values as you can possibly ask for."
Sokol added: "The Constitution recognizes that right, and I think that is going to trump what the political topic du jour is."
Fairfax County Public Schools disclosed after probing the matter that Ferrick would no longer be teaching at Centreville High School. No lawsuit has been filed.
"Following a thorough investigation by my office, the teacher in question will not be returning to an FCPS school," FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand told WTOP.
Ferrick's attorney, James Freeman, issued a statement asserting that the the teacher did nothing wrong.
"Mr. Ferrick has been a teacher with an impeccable record of service to Fairfax County Public schools for over 32 years," Freeman said. "The allegations against him are misleading and without merit."
FCPS policy states: "No student shall be subjected to unfavorable comment or stigmatization of his or her decision to participate or abstain from the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance."
Angela Trammel, the student's mother, said, "I’m pretty proud of his courage. I’m more proud that he behaved well throughout his courage ... I want Eric to know he's going to be protected and he doesn’t have to make any concessions when he’s been mistreated, ever."