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ACLU Defends MCPS Student’s Choice Not to Stand for Pledge of Allegiance

The incident is the fourth such occurrence since 2005.

(UPDATE April 22)

The Maryland Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently announced that for the fourth time in eight years, it has taken action against Montgomery County Public Schools regarding a student’s right to decline to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.

This most recent incident involved Enidris Siurano-Rodriguez, a 10th-grade student at Damascus High School, who was protesting U.S. government policies toward Puerto Rico, which is her family's native country. 

According to the ACLU’s press release,  Siurano-Rodriguez initially was sent to the principal’s office, where the assistant principal “improperly demanded to know why she persisted in sitting during the Pledge.”

The school then contacted the student’s mother, stating that Siurano-Rodriguez would be removed from class if she continued to sit during the pledge, the ACLU said.

David Rocah, staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland, was quoted in the release as saying, "The law is crystal clear that a public school cannot embarrass or harass a student for maintaining a respectful silence during the Pledge of Allegiance. What is not clear is why teachers and school officials in Montgomery County have repeatedly violated students' rights by seeking to compel recitation of the Pledge."

Dana Tofig, director of public information for MCPS, said the school system is "looking into the matter at Damascus." He said MCPS school days start with the Pledge of Allegiance "but our policy is very clear that students are not required to participate or stand."

The ACLU contends that it has received “multiple complaints” from MCPS students at schools, including Germantown’s Roberto Clemente Middle School, Takoma Park Middle School, Northwood High School, Takoma Park’s Rolling Terrace Elementary School and Gaithersburg High School.

MCPS does have a regulation (JFA-RA) that specifically outlines a student’s rights when it comes to such events. Section H.2.a states: “Students have a right to not be compelled to participate in patriotic exercises, or be penalized or embarrassed for failure to participate.”

On April 9, the ACLU sent a letter to MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr, MCPS Board of Education President Christopher Barclay and Damascus High School officials seeking “meetings with the superintendent and high school to discuss what steps will be taken to ensure that violations do not keep occurring.”

This article was updated on April 22 to include a statement from MCPS in the sixth paragraph.

Daryl Dove April 22, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Loyalty and allegiance to America is sadly lacking I'm this nation of ours. Things like freedom, one nation, unity and honor are eroding from America's seams and fabric. I pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America (while standing). Daryl Dove Winston Churchill High School Class of 1980
Hifi April 22, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Daryl, Sounds like you want us to be more like North Korea - except for the part where you mention "freedom", which is what this issue is all about. Consider that freedom is really at odds with the various mentions of conformity in the rest of your list.

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