A 6-year-old Florida boy "took a knee" during his classroom's Pledge of Allegiance this week, and now the boy's mother is claiming that the boy's school overreacted by admonishing him for not standing.
As ABC News reports, Eugenia McDowell, the boy's mother, did not know her son was planning on not standing for the Pledge. If she had known, she says, she would have sent a letter to Wiregrass Elementary School in Wesley Chapel, Florida, advising them of her son's decision. That's because Florida law allows a student to opt out of standing, placing their hand over their heart, or any other outward displays of respect for the national anthem or Pledge of Allegiance, with a written note from a parent.
Pasco County School District Spokesperson Linda Cobbe says that if there were such a letter on file, there would have been no issue.
"Our policy -- and state law, for that matter -- requires that a parent submit a request in writing that their student be exempted from participating in the Pledge."
In the absence of a letter, McDowell says, her son was publicly admonished in front of his classroom when he declined to stand. What's more, she says, she found out about the incident in a text message Monday evening from the boy's teacher.
"It teaches him to be silent," said Eugenia McDowell, who said her son was 'silenced' after he knelt for the pledge https://t.co/obwpaKSBsj
— Tierra Smith (@ByTierraSmith) September 27, 2017
McDowell showed the text message to ABC News.
"I knew where he had seen it [going down on one knee], but I did tell him that in the classroom, we are learning what it means to be a good citizen, we're learning about respecting the United States of America and our country symbols and showing loyalty and patriotism and that we stand for the Pledge of Allegiance."
McDowell believes her son was chastised publicly, in front of his classroom, for not standing. That's a claim Cobbe disputes. Further, Cobbe says, the teacher only mouthed the words "we stand for the Pledge."
Since the incident, McDowell claims, the matter has grown from a simple classroom issue to one that is affecting her son's schooling. McDowell noted that she was considering changing her son's classroom if he didn't get an apology; now, however, it appears that the school has made the decision for her and has already assigned her son to another teacher.
McDowell believes her son's rights to free speech have been violated, and that his voice was taken from him.
"My concern is she infringe [sic] upon his constitutional right to express himself, to protest peacefully, and she also made him feel like his decision to come up with his own opinion about things was the wrong thing to do."
What's more, she's convinced that her son's race played a role in how he was treated.
"We are no longer going be silenced, our voices will be heard and our little black boys that sit in classrooms today, not just my son but every other child that looks like him, they are not going to be silenced."
Do you believe Wiregrass Elementary School properly handled this boy's decision not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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