David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff
May 4, 2012
A Pennsylvania eighth-grade student and her mother won a battle after challenging school officials’ position that students must stand during the Pledge of Allegiance or else be punished for “disorderly conduct.”
Carolyn Raja sued the Brownsville Area School District on behalf of her 13-year-old daughter (known in court documents as “N.B.), who was admonished by her teacher, Jessica VanMeter, after she refused to get out of her classroom seat during the Pledge of Allegiance. The school’s principal, Vincent Nesser, backed the disciplinary actions of the teacher, telling Raja that he expected all students to recite the pledge.
The school does not have a written rule or policy requiring students to participate in the daily pledge.
On the morning of May 1, the ACLU sued the school district on behalf of the Rajas and by the afternoon the district had backed down. District solicitor James Davis acknowledged that N.B. had a “constitutionally protected right” not to stand.
In 1943 the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, affirmed the right First Amendment right of students to refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or to salute the American flag.