Vidor School District Makes Pledge of Allegiance Optional After ACLU Challenge

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
January 23, 2008 12:00 am

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Group Calls it Victory for First Amendment Rights

AUSTIN, TX – The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas applauded the Vidor Independent School District (VISD) Board of Directors today for revising district policy to protect students’ right to decide for themselves whether to participate in the pledge of allegiance. The new policy, which went into effect immediately, provides students the daily “opportunity to stand and recite the pledges of allegiance to the United States and Texas flags.”

“Students may wish to refrain from reciting the pledge for a variety of religious and political reasons, and the First Amendment protects their right do so as long as they don’t disrupt other students,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of the ACLU of Texas. “We are delighted that the school board chose to adopt a policy that helps minimize the potential for not understanding the voluntary nature of the pledge, and we look forward to seeing the new policy implemented throughout the school district.”

The change in policy resulted from a challenge by the ACLU on behalf of Vidor High School senior Rosa Salas to a disciplinary referral she received after politely declining to stand for the pledge in class on September 11, 2007. Although Salas had not stood for or recited the pledge in several years, she was told the VISD pledge policy then in force required her to stand and to provide a written note from her parent to be excused from reciting the pledge.

“I couldn’t believe my beliefs were insufficient for my school,” said Ms. Salas, an advanced placement student who has competed in UIL Literary Criticism and is president of the French club. “I was very upset, and shocked that the administrators were trying to make me choose between my beliefs and my education. But I’m glad that I had a chance to help convince the school board to change its policy so other students will be free to say the pledge or not, depending on their own beliefs.”

After the ACLU informed VISD of the First Amendment’s protections, the school apologized to Ms. Salas and removed the disciplinary referral from her student record. The district then moved quickly to develop the new pledge policy, which was unanimously approved at the school board’s December 18, 2007 meeting, according to minutes adopted Monday night, January 21, 2008.

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