By Adan Salazar -
A controversy erupted at a Florida school Monday after a student who took a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance Monday was told to stand.
A Wiregrass Elementary School teacher saw the 6-year-old “go down on one knee” and told him “that we stand for the Pledge of Allegiance,” according to a letter sent to the boy’s mother.
“I just wanted to let you know that this morning when it was time to do the Pledge of Allegiance, (your son) went down on one knee. I knew where he had seen it but I did tell him that in the classroom we are learning what it means to be a good citizen we’re learning about respecting the United States of America and our country symbols and showing loyalty and patriotism and that we stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I know it’s a sensitive issue but I wanted to make you aware. Thanks”
The mother of the student, Eugenia McDowell, says she’d taught her son to “have an open mind and make decisions and that this issue is way bigger than her 6-year-old son,” WFTS reports.
“[The teacher] told him right away, based on what he told me, to stand up and to stop it… That’s not her right,” McDowell said.
“He was influenced by what he saw over the weekend, the conversations we were having,” the mother told Fox13News.com, citing the current NFL controversy in which football players and owners are taking a knee during the National Anthem.
“When he demonstrated what he did, he took a knee and he put his hand over his heart.”
McDowell says the teacher’s actions may prevent the boy from expressing himself in the future.
“It immediately caused him to think again about ever expressing himself in a way that would be different than how other people are expressing themselves,” McDowell stated.
Pasco County school district representative Linda Cobbe agreed the teacher may have handled the situation badly, and maybe should have “pulled the student aside and talked about it,” but pointed to Florida state law requiring students stand during the Pledge of Allegiance.
“State law says that the only way that a student can be exempted from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is if they have a written request from their parent and even then the law says that they still have to stand,” Cobbe indicated.
Florida state law actually says students must stand during the pledge, but can be excused from doing so with a handwritten note from parents.
"Each district school board may adopt rules to require, in all of the schools of the district, programs of a patriotic nature to encourage greater respect for the government of the United States and its national anthem and flag, subject always to other existing pertinent laws of the United States or of the state. When the national anthem is played, students and all civilians shall stand at attention, men removing the headdress, except when such headdress is worn for religious purposes. The pledge of allegiance to the flag, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” shall be rendered by students standing with the right hand over the heart. The pledge of allegiance to the flag shall be recited at the beginning of the day in each public elementary, middle, and high school in the state. Each student shall be informed by a written notice published in the student handbook or a similar publication pursuant to s. 1006.07(2) that the student has the right not to participate in reciting the pledge. Upon written request by his or her parent, the student must be excused from reciting the pledge, including standing and placing the right hand over his or her heart. When the pledge is given, unexcused students must show full respect to the flag by standing at attention, men removing the headdress, except when such headdress is worn for religious purposes…"
Schools are now addressing the controversy on a district-by-district basis as additional protests are anticipated at high school sporting events.
The boy was transferred to a different class, and the teacher has not been reprimanded by the district, according to Fox13News.com.