Atheist Student Forced To Stand For Pledge Of Allegiance Receives Apology

| by Kathryn Schroeder

Administrators at a Ventura County, Calif., high school have apologized after pressuring an atheist student to stand for the pledge of allegiance against his will.

The male ninth grade student at Oak Park High School attempted to stay seated at his desk while the rest of his class recited the pledge of allegiance, reports Huffington Post.

The student claims he was reprimanded by a teacher for sitting and “intimidated” into standing during the recital.

The American Humanist Association was contacted by the student on their 'Don’t Say the Pledge' website following the incident. The website has a boycott card they can download to show teachers and inform them of their protection under the First Amendment.

The American Humanist Association, a nonprofit group, sent a letter to the school district on the student’s behalf demanding action be taken.

The letter stated the teacher had violated the student’s First Amendment rights by pressuring him to say the pledge.

"Under the guise of patriotism, this school authority figure has demonstrated shocking indifference for the very Constitution he claims to deem so sacred," reads the letter. "We demand that this situation be remedied immediately."

School Administrators have since apologized to the student for the teacher’s actions.

"It was a mistake," Anthony Knight, superintendent of the Oak Park Unified School District, said.

Knight said students have the right and will be allowed to remain seated during the pledge, reports the Los Angeles Times.  He said the teacher did not know the “student's constitutional protections for both refusing to recite and stand for the pledge.”

A memo was sent to teachers following the incident:

"Compelling a student to stand or participate in any way is considered a violation of the student’s First Amendment rights to free speech and expression," Knight wrote. "There may be a commonly held misunderstanding that students can decide to refrain from saying the Pledge but can be required to stand out of respect. This is not correct."

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