The Pledge of Allegiance: Standing Up During Its Recital

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Table of contents

  1. Stella Student’s Intentions by Not Choosing to Stand
  2. Big City Schools Requiring Students to Recite the Pledge
  3. Conclusion of My Opinion on Stella Student’s Case

Analyzing the situation of the student, Stella Student, in regard to other Supreme Court decisions is complex and requires the utmost care in dissecting the rationale of the court in their decisions. In cases concerning the protection against sanction or persecution due to First Amendment rights, Stella’s case may be in accordance with the decisions made by the court in these other cases. While the Big City Board of Education had adopted a policy, in which every student is required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, this policy may ultimately violate the First Amendment rights of not only Stella, but all of the students who attend Big City Public Schools. On the other hand, dependent on the situation, you may be inclined to suspend Stella on the basis of attempting to impede on the work of other teachers and students of the school. I ultimately believe though, in suspending Stella, it would have more negatives impacts on the students of the schools, and the decision would not hold up in a court of law. In order to fully understand the case at hand, we must understand Stella’s intent and motives in not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, as well as the power the Board of Education to implement such policies in their schools.

Stella Student’s Intentions by Not Choosing to Stand

When analyzing the intentions and motives of Stella, it is important to first discuss what sort of intent is protected by the law. The intent of a protest in any situation, to be deemed as an obstruction to everyday life, is one that could incite either disruption or violence, depending on the situation. In reference to schools, not allowing other students and teachers to perform their duties, by preventing them from completing work, or by involving them in a disruptive protest, can lead to school officials to have reason to sanction a student or group of students. Nevertheless, if a student does not impede on the everyday work of others, they are protected under the First Amendment, in accordance to the decisions of the court. In Tinker v. Des Moines, the students were acquitted of their sanctions when the court decided their acts of protest were not in attempt to disrupt the order and sanctity of the school. The court stated that, in this case, the students wearing these armbands, in protest of the Vietnam War, did not interfere with the other students’ rights, as no other students was affected by these students wearing their armbands. Their rationale for this statement was that there needs to be clear attempt to insight interference, and not the school reacting in a choice to avoid the unpleasantries of the situation. With no evidence that there was going to be any interruption of school activities and anyone else’s rights, there is no ground for which the school can make the argument for the anticipation of a disturbance. Ultimately the court labeled their protest as “pure speech,” which is protected by the First Amendment.

In Texas v. Johnson, the case also demonstrates the need for clear intent and motive of disruption to be deemed prosecutable. While the State of Texas argued the act of burning the flag by Johnson, during a protest, was to cause a major disturbance, the court saw no reason to believe this would be the outcome of Johnson’s actions. The rationale behind this was that Johnson’s burning of the flag was ruled as expressive conduct, one that was for the sake of promoting his political agenda rather than attempting to disrupt and cause uproar among the people. Johnson did not look to incite violence, as the court expresses that “Johnson’s expression did not fall within the class of “fighting words” likely to be seen as a direct personal insult or an invitation to exchange fisticuffs (Justice Brennan),” describing the necessary actions in order to properly conclude Johnson’s intentions as disruptive. The court also referenced United States v. O’Brien, in determining that even with the act of burning the flag being involved, the State could not impede on Johnson’s First Amendment rights, even if the action being unfavorable by others or on the basis that “nonspeech” elements were not in consideration of First Amendment rights.

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In relation to these cases, there are clear signs that Stella’s intent and motive were not in attempt to cause disturbance in Big City High School. As stated to you, Stella has mentioned that she represents the racial and social justice for people of color, being the reason for her sitting during the Pledge. With no other motive mentioned, and no acts committed by Stella to insinuate any disruption to follow, like deny them their right of reciting the pledge, there is no reason to believe she were to cause a disturbance. Summarizing this, Stella’s First Amendment rights allow her to sit down for the pledge, peacefully promoting her political agenda and demonstrating her beliefs of the injustices that have been put upon people of color in our criminal justice system. With this being said, it is important to also discuss the power of Big City Board of Education to instill this policy on their students.

Big City Schools Requiring Students to Recite the Pledge

Big City Board of Education has required all of their students to recite the pledge. Nevertheless, it is important to reference the court’s decisions on important First Amendment cases to determine if Stella is required to comply with this policy. According to West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, families of children who did not recite the pledge, specifically those who are a part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, were protected from the policy from the Board of Education on the basis of the policy violating the First Amendment. While the two cases are different, they lead to the same rationale that the school can’t use compulsion to follow a symbol in which they do not believe the meaning in which the symbol stands for. The court also states that the use of force to ensure students recite the pledge would not be consistent with the belief of wanting to create unity and follow the flags meaning. Justice Jackson concludes that not allowing these students to sit would violates their First Amendment as stated, and the school cannot make rules that would deny them of their inalienable rights. The power of the Board of Education doesn’t over extended beyond the student’s rights, even in attempt to maintain the image of the flag that they believe would be affected.

The statement made regarding the protection of student’s rights on school property is also supported in other cases. Referencing Tinker v. Des Moines once again, an important part of Justice Fortas’ rationale applies directly to the establishment of such policy in schools. With the implementation of this policy, it would deny these students ability to express their First Amendment right, as according to Justice Fortas, students and teacher do not lose their First Amendment rights even on the property of the school. This means that the Board of Education would be denying their students their rights, as not being able to sit for the pledge is preventing students from exercising their First Amendment rights. This ultimately states then that the school does not have the power to deny them from their rights, or they would be impeding on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

With both of these cases showing support for student’s rights and the schools’ powers being limited over specific actions of the students, Stella should have protection under the First Amendment, as the policy made by the board of education is in violation of these rights. The forceful nature of the policy does not support the image of the flag, as Stella, and other students who choose to sit for the Pledge, still continue to view the flag as a symbol of injustice rather than unity and nationalism. Her right to sit and view the flag this way is protected by the First Amendment, and to the worries of yourself and the Board of Education, doesn’t impede on the meaning of the flag for other students in the school. Even on the property of the school, her rights can’t be denied, meaning that Stella Student shouldn’t be subjected to suspension due to her actions.

Conclusion of My Opinion on Stella Student’s Case

Referring to these cases has allowed myself to view Stella’s case as one following the decisions representing the protection of the state from impeding on people’s rights. With this being said, there are always dissenting opinions regarding the nature of the courts’ ruling. The importance of these decisions of the majority though is for precedent of the law. The court uses precedent to decide a lot of their decisions. While some past decisions get reversed, many times they have used these decisions to maintain the precedent set and decide fairly on each case. In accordance to Stella’s case, precedent that would be followed by the court, in my belief, would favor the ruling that Stella’s First Amendment rights were violated. Stella’s case is similar to the ones mentioned, and using the rationale mentioned for both points, this leads me to believe this decision will be made by the court.

Regarding the effect this will have on other students, I believe suspending Stella would cause more uproar than not suspending her. Knowing the decisions of other cases similar to Stella’s case, students would feel a sense of betrayal and mistreatment from the Board of Education against them, inciting more protest and more disruption of school activities. Ultimately, the decision in question is difficult, and I would understand your inability to quickly agree with my opinion, but as said, this is my belief of how the Supreme Court would analyze this situation.

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