A Maryland public high school punished a student for kicking a chair out from under another student who had sat during the recital of the pledge of allegiance.
Winters Mills High School in Carroll County disciplined the student after a video of the incident went viral online, Carroll County Times reported.
“Some people don’t understand how disrespectful it is to sit during the pledge or national anthem and deserves to get their [expletive] kicked,” the student wrote in the comment to the video. “More of y’all need to stand up to these [expletive] that sit during the pledge.”
The Pledge of Allegiance is broadcast before announcements at Carroll County public schools, but students are not required to stand for it.
When school officials questioned the student who was sitting for the pledge, the student said that he was not participating in a protest. But his social media post about the event indicates otherwise.
“I was practicing my right to free speech, a right given to me by the soldiers that I do respect, unlike what he says. I simply will not stand and pledge allegiance to a country that is run by a racist, sexist, bigoted, fascist,” the student wrote. “I will not stand for a country who mistreats those who aren’t white and rich. Forced patriotism is fascism, and nothing less. So I invite all to join me tomorrow, and #sitthe[expletive]down if you believe that free speech is a fundamental right of the people, and that it should be protected.”
The school system would not comment on what punishment the student received or release his name, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
According to Dana Falls, the director of student services for the county public schools system, punishment ranges depending on the student’s history and the incident in question. The school principals have the final word in the matter and are expected to use progressive punishment: starting with the least necessary discipline and increasing the punishment if the student’s behavior does not improve.
“The end game would be suspension if we can’t make that behavior change,” Falls said.
The school would not release the student’s disciplinary record, citing privacy laws.
The school’s principal, Eric King, referred inquiries to the Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) central office.
The CCPS handbook states that its schools will not tolerate any acts of “bullying, harassment, intimidation, discrimination, or hazing on the part of students or employees.”
The president of the board of education, Devon Rothschild, would not comment on the incident but said that the school system has a zero-tolerance policy toward bullying.
Falls said that the incident does not qualify as bullying in his view.
“In my opinion, based on what I know about the initial incident … that would be considered an unsafe behavior or disrespect to the student,” Falls said. “If it continued, it would absolutely be considered bullying.”
Schools don’t usually contact law enforcement for an incident of this type, Falls said, adding that police are usually brought in if the violence falls into a pattern or if serious bodily harm is caused.
“In this particular case, I highly doubt that the administrator would involve law enforcement,” he said.
The people involved are still free to file charges, Falls added.
The First Amendment protects public school students from being forced to salute the flag or stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, based on a 1943 Supreme Court case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.
“The school cannot punish the student for not standing for the pledge,” Falls said.
The school system never forces the students to stand for the pledge, Falls added, even if they do so in protest.