Can public school teachers refuse to say the pledge?

North Carolina has just put in place a law requiring schools to schedule time for the Pledge of Allegiance. The law states that:

I believe that this means that no policy can compel a teacher (e.g., a Jehovah’s Witness) to recite the pledge, but it seems a little ambiguous to me: could a school board legally adopt a diferent policy to compel a teacher to recite the pledge? Could a principal legally require a teacher to recite the pledge as a condition of employment?


Sorry, that was me, not burundi, asking.


I think that in a public school setting, a law requiring teachers to recite the pledge would fall firmly into the categry of “abridging the freedom of speech”, and would therefore be prohibited under the First Amendment.

That doesn’t mean that a principal or school board can’t do it, just that such a rule, if challenged, would eventually be overturned by the courts.

I think this falls into a similar category w/ the boy scout professing a belief in god, whether specifically true or not. From a practical point of view, is this a battle worth fighting? If a teacher really wants to be in the classroom, I think they would severely limit their opportunities if they took this one on. On the other hand, if they’re looking for an excuse to make a career change…

AFAIK, no they can’t. They attempted to do so a few years ago in my district, but back-pedaled very quickly when another teacher and I started making very loud comments about contacting the ACLU. They settled with playing a bad rendition of the National Anthem before the bulletin every Monday. Kids ask me every now and then why I refuse to say the pledge. I tell them to ask me after they graduate.

One of my favorite quotations that I taught my students was this one from Emerson:

“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”

How could I teach them to value the principle of that line of thought and then cave in to the requirement that I pledge my allegiance to a symbol and to a country which no longer really stands for Liberty and Justice for all? I would be lying to myself and to my students.

Yes, the battle for personal and academic integrity is always worth fighting.

(I would not introduce my personal political opinions about my country into my classroom; that would not be appropriate for my classroom and subject matter.)

I should have qualified my opinion. I was assuming that refusal would be based on the “under God” issue. mea culpa. :smack:

Related news from Japan:


The whole article is a very good read.

I teach American Government, so I can always introduce my personal opinions. I try very hard, though, to identify them as such, and not History or Holy Writ. My students seem to like trying to poke holes in my arguments. It gets them thinking, which is the main idea.

One of the greatest compliments I ever got as a teacher was when a local Mormon reading group examined my Government book list. They had two comments: 1) That it was the most balanced book list they had seen in quite a while, and 2) They liked how I had listed *The Communist Manifesto * under “Fiction.” :smiley:


West Virginia v. Barnette 319 U.S. 624 (1943); and see, “Exploring Constitutional Conflicts: Coerced speech”; and don’t you wish you could see, Alan K. Chen,* Forced Patriot Acts*, 81 Denv. U.L. Rev. 703 (2004) (reviewing history of forced patriotism); Laurie Allen Gallancy, Teachers and the Pledge of Allegiance, 57 U. Chi. L. Rev. 929 (1990) (unconstitutional to require teachers to recite the pledge).

Awesome, Gfactor–this is what I suspected, but I wasn’t sure about it.

I don’t know how I’ll handle this when the time comes. On the one hand, as a pretty comfortable atheist, I don’t believe in the sacred value of words, much less the sacred value of compelled words; I therefore don’t think there is anything immoral about mouthing words I don’t believe, as long as nobody is making decisions based on information in those words.

On the other hand, I think there is value in acting as an example of integrity, and viscerally saying the Pledge seems like an act of cowardice to me (for myself, since I don’t believe the words–not for folks in general).

I’m leaning toward standing silently and respectfully during the Pledge, and if any students ask why, just telling them that I have personal, private reasons and that the school policy allows anyone to stand silently instead of saying the pledge.


I’m fairly certain the school cannot even require someone to stand for the pledge.

No they can’t. But since part of our job is to also teach students to respect other opinions, common courtesy says to stand silently during the pledge.

What a terrible job of drafting they did:

Here is what the statute used to say:

(Emphasis added.)

It’s easy to see how a policy that provides the opportunity for students to recite the Pledge can be construed consistently with the bolded language. In fact, it would be tough to read the statute (and policies permitted under it) to require anyone to recite the Pledge.

Now take a look at what they did to it:

I can see how you got confused, Daniel. I’m not sure how a a policy requiring the recitation of the Pledge can be read not to compel people to recite the Pledge and retain any meaning.

I think what they’re trying to say is that the school board is required to set up policies by which the Pledge is scheduled, but that people aren’t required to participate.

Monty, I also think you’re right, that according to this statute people can’t be required to stand during the pledge. Good catch! I’m fine with standing during it, but if students don’t want to, I can require them to show respect through standing or sitting quietly.


And if that itself violates one’s principles, one’s religion? I hold to the opinion that common courtesy is not law. The law guarantees rights.

from The News&Observer.

OK. Since 37 states perhaps now require it, have there been any suits filed against this?

And, now that I"ve read the last replies more closely, I understand more. Question withdrawn.

Agreed. If anybody feels that strongly about it, then stay seated by all means. Respect of the beliefs of others goes both ways.

Excellent comment, silenus. Now if we can just get lawmakers to figure that out.

When I was in school (1942-1954) PA statues required that 10 verses of the bible be read without comment at the beginning of every school day. A couple of teachers in HS ignored it and no point was made either way. The pledge became a religious pledge around when I finished.

A girl I dated went to a school that had students do the reading. A moslem girl tried to read from the Koran, but was prevented from doing so. Which reminds me, is a Moslem teacher supposed to read the bible? (I guess their official doctrine is that it is a holy book, so how about a Hindu or Buddhist?)