ACLU of Florida Defends High School Student Punished for Refusing to Stand for the Pledge of Allegiance
New ACLU Lawsuit Challenges State Law and School Board Policy
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEST PALM BEACH, FL — The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today filed a federal lawsuit against Palm Beach County school officials for harassing and punishing 17-year-old Cameron Frazier when he expressed his First Amendment right to not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. The ACLU lawsuit is challenging a Florida law and a Palm Beach County school board policy mandating that students receive written permission from their parents before declining to recite the oath.
“The courts have ruled time and time again that students in public schools have the First Amendment right to remain quietly seated during the Pledge of Allegiance,” said James Green, Legal Panel Chair of the ACLU of Florida’s Palm Beach County Chapter, and Frazier’s attorney. “Cameron is a very patriotic student, but his is a quiet form of patriotism. In a very polite and respectful way, he declined to stand for the pledge and the teacher berated him in front of his classmates.”
According to the ACLU, Boynton Beach High School teacher Cynthia Alexandre ordered Frazier to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during her fourth period math class on December 8. When Frazier refused, citing the fact that he had not stood for the Pledge since sixth grade and that he wasn’t going to change his practice, Alexandre responded by saying: “Oh you wanna bet? See your desk? Now look at mine. Big desk, little desk. You obviously don’t know your place in this classroom.” Frazier said the teacher cursed at him and accused him of being unpatriotic before ordering him to leave the classroom. Alexandre cited a school district policy requiring all students to stand during the Pledge, although students with written permission from their parents are excused from actually reciting the oath.
“I believe that the real meaning of the flag – freedom, liberty and equality – has been tarnished by the recent policies of our government,” said Frazier. “Patriotism is more than going along with everybody else and just saluting a flag. It’s about things like supporting our troops during the holidays and helping hurricane victims.”
The ACLU is asking a Palm Beach federal court to declare the school district policy and Florida Statute 1003.44 (1), which requires parental permission before public school students may be excused from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The ACLU is also asking the court to prohibit school officials from disciplining or retaliating against Frazier for refusing to stand.
The lawsuit names Alexandre and assistant principal Richard Poorman as defendants, along with the Palm Beach County School Board.
The ACLU’s complaint is online at: http://www.aclufl.org/issues/students/FrazierComplaintFiled.PDF
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