A Republican Alabama lawmaker is working to make patriotism great again by pushing a bill that requires school kids to start their day with the Pledge of Allegiance.
Bizpacreview.com reported that the Republican lawmaker was prompted to act after finding out last year that his fifth-grade grandchild wasn’t reciting the Pledge every morning at school, even though the Alabama Board of Education requires schools to allow students in public kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools to recite the Pledge every day.
The proposed bill seeks to transfer authority over the Pledge away from the school board, which is unable to enforce it, and make it a state law.
The debate over whether schools can require kids to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance has been going on for some time.
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One Alabama lawmaker wants to make sure the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day of public schools.
House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, said he was surprised last year to find that one of his grandchildren, a fifth-grader at the time, didn’t know the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ledbetter said he found out that his grandchild’s school wasn’t reciting the Pledge every morning in spite of an Alabama Board of Education requirement to do so.
So Ledbetter filed House Bill 339, which would shift the authority over the Pledge away from the state school board, which, Ledbetter said, is not able to enforce it. Instead, state law would require every school start the day with the Pledge.
“I guess this gives it some teeth,” he said. “It gives leaders of the schools and principals a law in place where they won’t be afraid for their students to say it.”
Forty-three states require the Pledge of Allegiance each day at school, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Ledbetter made clear that the law, in keeping with prior court rulings, would not require students to actually say the Pledge, just that schools would start their day with it.
“There may be some religious objections,” he said, “We certainly don’t want anybody made to do it. But it does keep the Pledge in our schools.”
A 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, prohibits schools from requiring students to stand for or recite the Pledge.
“My hope is this doesn’t create a discipline problem,” Ledbetter said. “If [students] just sit down, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
The state of Texas is currently embroiled in a lawsuit filed after a student who did not participate in reciting or standing for the Pledge were disciplined for doing so.
In Texas, an African American high school student was expelled in 2017 after the principal witnessed her refusal to stand for the Pledge, according to news reports. She was reinstated a few days later but filed a lawsuit alleging constitutional violations. The student, India Landry, settled the suit against the principal, but the state law, which requires parental permission for a student to opt out of participating, is still being questioned.
In August, a Colorado teacher pleaded guilty to child abuse charges after grabbing a middle-school student and forcing him to his feet after he refused to stand for the Pledge. The teacher, a 20-year veteran, received an 18-month deferred sentence and could have the guilty plea withdrawn if terms of the sentence are fulfilled.
In February of this year, an African American sixth-grade student in Florida was arrested after refusing to stand for the Pledge and becoming engaged in an argument with school officials. The student was charged with disrupting a school function and resisting an officer without violence according to news reports.
Meanwhile, an Atlanta public charter school made news last year when officials dropped the Pledge as a regular morning activity.
Ledbetter’s bill will be taken up in the House Education Policy Committee on Wednesday.
“My concern is that’s just a part of our country we patronize,” Ledbetter said. “It’s part of our heritage.”