1969 October 31

Two 12-Year-Old Girls in Court For Refusing to Recite Pledge of Allegiance

 

Two 12-year-old girls in Brooklyn went to court on this day to assert their right to remain seated in class while other students recited the Pledge of Allegiance. One of the students, Mary, said she refused to recite the pledge because she doesn’t believe that “the actions of this country at this time warrant my respect.” (The Vietnam War was still raging at this time.) The seventh graders had been suspended four weeks earlier in what the school board’s attorney described as a simple matter of school discipline and not one of First Amendment law. Allowing the girls to remain seated, he claimed, would be “disruptive.”

The girls were represented by lawyers for the New York Civil Liberties Union, who cited the famous Supreme Court case of West Virginia v. Barnette, decided on June 14, 1943, in which the Court upheld the right of Jehovah’s Witness’s children not to salute the American flag as required by their school.

Learn more about the history of the Pledge of Allegiance: Joel Westheimer, Pledging Allegiance: The Politics of Patriotism in America’s Schools (2007)

Read: John W. Johnson, The Struggle for Student Rights: Tinker v. Des Moines and the 1960s (1997)

Learn more about students’ rights: https://www.aclu.org/free-speech/student-speech

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