In Landmark Florida Case, ACLU Preserves Right of Students Not to Recite Pledge

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
June 1, 2006 12:00 am

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WEST PALM BEACH, FL — The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today applauded a district court ruling striking down a state law requiring students to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The pledge will continue to be recited in public school classrooms, but the unconstitutional practice of forcing all students to stand and recite the pledge will be halted.

“The pledge will continue to be recited in schools, but will no longer be forced upon all students,” said attorney James Green, Legal Panel Chair of the ACLU of Florida’s Palm Beach County Chapter. “This case is about protecting the rights of all students — including those who choose not to stand and recite the pledge.”

The case was filed by the ACLU of Florida on behalf of Cameron Frazier, who was punished and publicly ridiculed by his Palm Beach teacher, Cynthia Alexandre, last December when he respectfully declined to stand for the pledge. The U.S. District Court today declared the Florida statute and the school district’s policy unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which protect free speech and the right to due process of law The school district will now have to “rescind any custom or practice that requires a parent’s permission before being excused from reciting the pledge,” according to the judgment handed down today by U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp.

“Cameron Frazier stood up for his rights, sued the school district and his teacher, and consequently has defended his and every other student’s First and Fourth Amendment rights to refuse to stand for the pledge in school — while maintaining the rights of other students to recite the pledge,” Green added. “This is a win for everyone and Cameron is a brave American.”

Frazier was a 17-year-old student at Boynton Beach Community High School when the case was filed on December 22, 2005. Green and ACLU of Florida Legal Director Randall C. Marshall were co-counsel in the case, Cameron Frazier v. Cynthia Alexandre.

“Compelling young people to salute the flag, under threat of punishment for refusal to do so, has been unconstitutional in America for over six decades,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “It was long past due for this unconstitutional law in Florida to be struck down and the conscience and rights of young people to be respected by school officials.”

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