Jon Super, Associated Press
By PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune
Last update: May 9, 2008 - 1:26 PM
Rules to be followed
In the 1950's the Supreme Court said separate was not equal. Yet many states maintained laws to keep the races separate. Looking back we … read more aplaud the young people who challenged those laws, sat at those lunch counters, refused to move to the back of the bus, etc. Why? They were in "Rome" shouldn't they, as another commenter wrote, "done as the Romans did?" Am I really comparing these kids to blacks in the South igniting the civil rights movement? No. But this is still an issue that the Supreme Court has ruled on and the SCHOOL is not following the rule of law here. Those of you that would insist that kids be MADE to say the pledge... to be honest, you scare me a little. The pledge means so much more, when it is done of your own free will. As for those who are more disappointed in the parents for supporting their kids in this... A parent that supports their kid in this does not concern me. It is the ones who insist that their kid wasn't at the party drinking, or who twist teachers arms for grades, those are the ones that get under my skin.
"My son wasn't being defiant against America," said Kim Dahl, mother of one of the students, Brandt, who attends Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Junior High School in western Minnesota. She said her son offered no reason for sitting.
Brandt told the Fargo Forum that Thursday's one-day in-school suspension, "was kind of dumb because I didn't do anything wrong. It should be the people's choice."
Kim Dahl said the "punishment didn't fit the crime. If they wanted to know why he didn't stand, they should've made him write a paper."
She said that Brandt has not been standing all year, and "all of a sudden it became an in-school suspension."
The district today is defending the punishments. The school's handbook says all students are required to stand but are not obligated to recite the pledge. The same is true for all four schools in the district, a school official said.
"These three [students] didn't, and they got caught," said Mel Olson, the district's community education director. He said he backs the punishment, "being a veteran and a United States of America citizen, absolutely." Olson served in the Marines in Japan during the Vietnam War.
The head of the Minnesota American Civil Liberties Union said that the school's actions against the students are unconstitutional.
"The school can't do that; that's illegal," said Chuck Samuelson, the civil liberties group's executive director. "Wow."
Samuelson said that numerous U.S. Supreme Court rulings dating to the 1940s say that "students who refuse to participate in the pledge cannot be punished for refusing to participate."
Samuelson said he's surprised that any public school district would have such a pledge requirement. In St. Paul, said district spokesman Howie Padilla, "Students can respectfully not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance."
Olson said this morning that a "very nice announcement" was made at the start of the junior high's school today reminding the students that they must stand for the pledge.
Principal Colleen Houglum said that all students this morning were "involved in some fashion" during the pledge, adding that no additional suspensions were needed.
"Our social studies teacher led the pledge, and that was kind of a nice change of pace," Houglum said.
Kim Dahl asked Brandt why he has remained seated all school year, but "he didn't have an answer ... he doesn't get in trouble; he's just a normal 13-year-old."
As for today, she told Brandt to take his cell phone with him to school and text her should he run into trouble again.
"I said you should probably just stand if you're not protesting something."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482