American Pride Divide: Maryland School’s Controversial Call on Pledge of Allegiance and Pride Flags

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) successfully pressured Twin Ridge Elementary School in Frederick County, Maryland, to reverse its policy that forced students to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. However, another district in Maryland is debating whether they should ban flags other than the American flag.

Stand and Recite

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Initially, Twin Ridge Elementary School required all students and teachers to stand, face the flag, and recite the pledge, but the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has other plans.

FIRE’s Legal Argument

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FIRE is arguing that the school’s pledge of allegiance policy violates the student’s First Amendment rights, which protect a person’s the right to refrain from expressing oneself. 

An Unconstitutional Policy

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In order to give the school an opportunity to update its policy, FIRE sent a letter to the school’s principal, Heather Hobbs, highlighting the unconstitutional nature of its policy.

Genuine Patriotism

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FIRE senior program officer Stephanie Joblonsky emphasized in a statement that mandatory patriotism for one’s country goes against genuine patriotism.

The Right to Refrain

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 Jablonsky said, “The First Amendment protects not only your right to express yourself, but also the right to refrain from doing so.” 

Refusing to Salute

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Jablonsky went on to say a person’s rights, “includes refusing to salute the flag. Mandatory patriotism is no patriotism at all.”

The School’s Response

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Following FIRE’s intervention, the school released a notice that the policy would be updated, and students and staff would be allowed to choose whether to participate in the pledge. 

Dissenting Student and Teachers

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Aaron Terr from FIRE said, “Liberty and justice for all means liberty and justice for all, including students and teachers who dissent from the government position.”

Overcoming the First Amendment

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Once the policy had been updated, Jablonsky said, “While non-participation may upset others who believe the pledge is an important expressive act, that reaction cannot overcome the First Amendment’s protection of those who decide to abstain.”

Flying Flags

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At Another school district in Harford County, Maryland, The Harford County Board of Education debated a policy that would make it so any flags hung would be restricted to American, Maryland, and Harford County flags.

Excluding Certain Flags

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Opponents of the new flag policy argued that the policy is a covert attempt to exclude certain flags that represent marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community.

Keeping Out Flags

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 District C board member, “I do not believe the intent of this is to promote the American flag as much as it is to keep out other flags.”

Avoiding Legal Cases

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Supporters of the flag policy argued that a restrictive flag policy would help the district avoid legal challenges and help to unify the district under the American flag.

Supporting the Policy

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School board Vice President Melissa Hahn highlighted these legal implications in her support for the restrictive flag policy and its ability to prevent discrimination lawsuits.

Opening Up for Lawsuits

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Hahn said, “If HCPS allows other flags other than the United States flag, the Maryland flag or the Harford County flag, we are opening ourselves up to such discrimination lawsuits.”

Citing the Supreme Court 

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To highlight these concerns, supporters cited a Supreme Court ruling that found Boston violated First Amendment rights by denying a request to display a Christian flag.

Student and Teacher Concerns

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Students and teachers spoke against the proposed policy due to its potential negative impact on LGBTQ+ students, which could lead to increased bullying and marginalization.

A Ludacris Policy

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Valerie Simmons, a transgender student in the district, told the Washington Examiner, Valerie Simmons, “I find the new flag policy proposed by the board to be ludicrous.”

Targeted Against Pride Flags

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Simmons herself actually went to the board meeting, and while carrying the Pride flag, she said, “That’s why I brought this flag with me tonight, just in case this flag is banned from schools. This policy is very targeted at flags like this one.”

The post Pride Divide: Maryland School’s Controversial Call on Mandatory Pledge of Allegiance and Pride Flags first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

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