Brownsville student, district reach agreement in Pledge dispute
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A Brownsville Area Middle School student who was disciplined repeatedly for refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance sued that school district this morning, demanding changes in policy and monetary damages. In the afternoon, the school district reversed course on the issue.
According to the complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union, the 13-year-old eighth grader -- identified in the complaint by her initials N.B. -- has been given lunch detention and multiple in-school suspensions in recent weeks for refusing to stand during the Pledge.
The ACLU said in its complaint that forcing a student to stand during the Pledge violates free speech rights.
"Due to personal beliefs regarding the state of the country, N.B. does not wish to stand" during the Pledge, the complaint said. A homeroom teacher told her that reflected "disrespect for all the soldiers dying for her overseas," and continued refusals brought discipline.
The student's mother, Carolyn Raja, complained to school officials, but they backed the discipline.
Ms. Raja's entreaties to middle school Principal Vincent Nesser, Superintendent Phillip Savini and the school board didn't end the discipline, according to the complaint. Nor did several warnings from the ACLU.
The lawsuit, apparently, has changed things.
"The student is in school today and chose not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance" and was not disciplined, said James Davis, the district's solicitor, who confirmed that she had a "constitutionally protected right" not to stand. "This was viewed perhaps by people as a disciplinary issue," he said, until it "got to the right people."
First Published April 30, 2012 8:34 pm