Last week, a six-year-old boy in Florida was made to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance at Wiregrass Elementary School when he wanted to kneel.
The boy’s mother, Eugenia McDowell, told ABC that when her son knelt down, his teacher immediately told him to rise. McDowell received a text message from his teacher last Monday after the incident took place. The message read, “I just wanted to let you know that this morning when it was time to do the Pledge of Allegiance, (your son) went down on one knee. I knew where he had seen it 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. I know its a sensitive issue but I wanted to make you aware. Thanks”
McDowell believes that the situation could have been handled differently, saying that the decision made by the teacher was one that was meant to silence him. Though, spokesperson Linda Cobbe of the Pasco County School District said there was a way to avoid the situation.
According to Cobbe, silent protests aren’t interrupted when a note is given to the teacher from a child’s parent specifying their decision to kneel during the Pledge of Allegiance. In an interview with ABC, Cobbe said, “Our policy — and state law, for that matter — requires that a parent submit a request in writing that their student is exempted from participating in the pledge.”
Following the incident, McDowell emailed the school requesting a meeting with the principal and the teacher. She wanted an apology for the treatment of her son and wanted to see if his teacher was remorseful. “If she demonstrated [remorse], then I would have been okay with him remaining in her class.”
However, Cobbe confirmed to ABC that McDowell’s son has already been moved to another classroom.
McDowell said her son and “every other child that looks like him” will not be silenced. She believes that his silent protest was not disrespectful as he was only stating his opinion. “He was silently protesting and exercising his constitutional right,” she told ABC. “My concern is she infringed 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.”
The protesting made headlines in early September of 2017 when quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, knelt during the American national anthem as a way to protest the racial discrimination in the country. 49ers safety, Eric Reid, joined Kaepernick while linebacker, Eli Harold, stood and held up his right fist. Safety for the Arizona Cardinals, Antoine Bethea also held up his first in early September.