The issue of not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance as a form of political protest provokes a lot of controversy. Many Americans, including many veterans, are offended, and that is understandable. The president can tweet his outrage, but educators must follow the law. And the law gives every American, including students as well as NFL players, the right not to stand for the pledge.
If students want to sit quietly during the pledge or kneel on the sidelines of the football field while the national anthem is being played, teachers and coaches should leave them alone. And if their school administration has a policy that denies those rights, they should demand that their school board change it.
I bring up this issue for two reasons. First, it is wrong for schools to deny the constitutional rights of any student. And, secondly, if they do they may very well find themselves wasting taxpayer dollars defending against lawsuits they never should have invited and will eventually lose. See the story linked at the end of this post.
The U.S. Supreme Court in a case from West Virginia ruled more than 70 years ago – in the middle of World War II — that requiring students in public schools to salute the flag or recite the pledge was a violation of their First Amendment rights.
American soldiers were dying then to defend those First Amendment rights, and many more have died since. Many Americans, especially veterans and their families, understandly are upset or enraged by what they see as disrespect for the flag. But the rights that veterans served and died to defend included the right of all Americans to peacefully protest by taking a classroom seat during the pledge or a knee during the anthem.
I always recite the pledge and stand for the anthem. But I am a white male who hasn’t experienced a history of the prejudicial behavior that some flag protesters, their families, friends or communities have experienced or may still be living through.
You don’t have to agree with the flag protesters, but as long as they are acting peacefully, respect their right to do so and leave them alone.