First Coast High student punished for sitting out the Pledge of Allegiance

Student punished for sitting during Pledge of Allegiance

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- Most students in public schools start the day by standing and reciting the pledge of allegiance with their classmates. But should a student be punished for NOT standing and reciting the pledge?

For 17 year old First Coast High School student Jonathan Sylvester, the decision to not stand with his classmates was done in protest of how another student was being treated.

That silent protest led to extra work being assigned by his teacher as a punishment. The teacher requested Sylvester write a two-page essay with "three valid reasons" why he should not stand for the pledge.

That led Sylvester and his mother Jenny to reach out to On Your Side's Ken Amaro.

"I'm a patriot, I believe in this country, this has nothing to do with patriotism." Sylvester told Ken.

Amaro reached out to the Duval County Schools, who tell us that a student has the right, with parent's permission, to not stand for the pledge.

The district's Laureen Ricks replied with the following statement:

Thank you for your inquiry. Pursuant to state statute and district policy, students have the right not to participate in reciting the pledge. As stated in our Student Code of Conduct:

• Upon written request by his or her parent, a student must be excused from reciting the pledge, including standing and placing the right hand over his or her heart.

The assignment given by the teacher was not in accordance with this policy or the guidance provided by school leadership. The teacher has since been counseled and will receive additional professional development. We understand this parent’s concerns and encourage all parents and caregivers to contact school leadership so that they are aware of their concerns and can assist in addressing and problem-solving the issue. For additional reference, please see our Student Code of Conduct which is posted on the DCPS Website.

Sylvester said he plans to continue his protest and sit for the pledge. He also did not complete the assignment.


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