Three Minnesota Junior High Students Suspended for Not Standing During Pledge

Published May 10, 2008

| Associated Press

Fourteen-year-old Bishop Edens was suspended from school Friday because he wouldn't stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, but he was quickly invited back once his principal learned that rule might be unconstitutional.

The back-and-forth came on the second day of controversy at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Junior High over the school's policy of requiring students to stand — but not necessarily recite — during the pledge.

Edens saw three of his classmates get disciplined by Principal Colleen Houglum on Thursday, so he decided to break the rule on Friday in protest. "I feel I should speak my mind about this whole thing," Edens said.

Edens was suspended Friday and went home, but his family told The Forum of Fargo that Houglum invited the teen back to school that afternoon.

Attorney Roger Aronson, who represents 1,700 secondary school principals in Minnesota, said he advised Houglum on Friday that requiring students to stand could violate their right to freedom of expression.

Houglum confirmed in a written statement to The Associated Press that three students were suspended Thursday for violating the DGF Student Handbook.

She said the handbook says "all students will stand" during the pledge but also says students aren't required to recite it.

But Houglum also said school officials were reevaluating the policy.

"It is our understanding that the phrase, 'all students will stand' may need to be modified to address the protection of the individual's form of expression," she said.

The principal told the students during the class Thursday that it was disrespectful to sit during the pledge, especially with U.S. troops fighting in Iraq, Edens said. A boy and two girls spent the day in in-school suspension.

"(Houglum) was talking about how people are fighting in the war for freedom, but she took away their freedom," he said of his classmates.

Shaun Anderson, whose daughter was suspended, said his daughter was talking to a friend about an assignment and didn't hear the pledge on the intercom. She usually stands for the pledge, Anderson said.

"I totally, 100 percent agree with her," Anderson, a member of the military, said of the principal's original decision. "I think any American should believe that."

But Kim Dahl, whose 13-year-old son Brandt was one of those suspended, called the disciplinary action "ridiculous." Her son said his homeroom teacher had never told students about the policy.

"I thought it was kind of dumb because I didn't do anything wrong," Dahl said. "It should be the people's choice."

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/05/10/three-minnesota-junior-high-students-suspended-for-not-standing-during-pledge