In supporting a school in Texas that expelled a student because she repeatedly refused to stand during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, reveals either his lack of understanding or contempt for the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette.
That landmark decision was handed down in 1943 by the Supreme Court of the United States. Justices ruled that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment protects students from being forced to salute the American flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance in a public school. Since students cannot be forced to recite the pledge, clearly they can’t be required to stand when other students are reciting it either.
Although neither the 1943 ruling nor the First Amendment applies to private entities, such as the NFL, it does apply to public schools in Texas and to the office of the attorney general of that state.
But Mr Paxton also claims the Supreme Court would back him up.
“The US Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents have a fundamental interest in guiding the education and upbringing of their children, which is a critical aspect of liberty guaranteed by the Constitution,” Newsweek quoted him as saying in a statement about the current case, which the student, who is 18, has brought before a district court in the state.
Officials at Windfern High School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District near Houston say the girl failed to stand some 200 times in 2017 with six different teachers as her classmates were reciting the pledge at the start of the school day.
Principal Martha Strother expelled her after she failed to stand during the pledge while she was sitting in the principal’s office.
“Well, you’re kicked outta here,” the lawsuit claims Ms Strother said. The principal also allegedly “had recently been whipped into a frenzy” by the NFL protests, according to the complaint. The school secretary told the student, “This is not the NFL.”
The secretary’s statement is the heart of the matter here. While I believe the attorney general would be right in telling the Dallas Cowboys to fire a player who kneels during the national anthem, if that’s truly how he feels, I believe he steps outside the lines in telling a public school to deprive a student of her education for not participating in patriotic activities.