A teacher in Florida has been suspended after forcing a fourth grader to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The incident took place last month when Anne Daigle-McDonald, a teacher at Explorer K-8 School in Spring Hill, Florida, made the boy, who is a Jehovah’s Witness, placed his hand over his heart during the reciting of the pledge on September 11, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Jehova’s Witnesses are prohibited from worshiping as stated by their religion, and this includes the American flag.
When the boy resisted, Daigle-McDonald told him:
“You are an American, and you are supposed to salute the flag.” according to a school administrator.
Several students confirmed the words the teacher lectured the class with the day after the Pledge of Allegiance incident.
“In my classroom, everyone will do the pledge; no religion says that you can’t do the pledge,” she told the students. “If you can’t put your hand on your heart, then you need to move out of the country.”
Hernando County School District officials concluded that the teacher is guilty of several offenses by forcing the student to say the Pledge of Allegiance and “violated a number of state education rules, professional conduct principles, and the student’s right to free speech and freedom of religion.”
Anne Daigle-McDonald, who has been a teacher for nine years, was suspended for five days without pay and was directed to attend diversity training.
Hernando County School Superintendent Lori Romano wrote a letter to the teacher saying in part, “Regardless of the circumstances that may have brought them about, such inappropriate actions on your part do not reflect positively on your position.”
Daigle-McDonald defended herself saying she was not discriminating against the child’s religion but was worried “other children might imitate him.” She argued her comments the next day were “directed at citizenship.”
“I was talking about pledging allegiance to our country,” Daigle-McDonald told a district official. “And if you don’t want to pledge to our country, you should go to your home country.”
A 1943 law made it unconstitutional to force a child to salute the flag, giving students the right to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, regardless of their religion.