Pledge of Allegiance
- Controversy regarding student participation in a flag salute ceremony dates back to the 1930s. The nation’s courts were divided on the issue of whether a student could be compelled to salute the flag of the United States and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Groups contending that saluting the flag was contrary to their fundamental religious beliefs raised objections on First Amendment grounds. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1940 that compelling students to salute the flag did not violate religious freedom. See Minersville School Dist. V. Gobitis, 60 S.Ct. 1010 (1940).
- In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court was given another opportunity to address this issue. Under challenge was a regulation issued by the West Virginia State Board of Education that required all teachers and pupils to participate in the flag-salute and authorized disciplinary action against students who refused to participate. Students expelled for refusal to participate were considered delinquents and subject to criminal prosecution. By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court reversed its decision in Minersville and struck down the flag salute requirement. The majority found that the freedom asserted to refuse to participate in the flag salute did not interfere with or deny the rights of others to participate. See West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 63 S.Ct. 1178 (1943).
- The standards established in Barnette have been expanded and clarified by subsequent lower court rulings. The Maryland Supreme Court invalidated a requirement that students objecting to the flag salute stand while the rest of the class recited the Pledge of Allegiance. See State v. Lundquist, 278 A. 2d 263 (1971). In 1973, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a school to allow a student to remain quietly seated during the flag salute. See Goetz v. Ansell, 477 F.2d 636 (2d. Cir. 1973).
Schools Supported by Public Moneys
In 2002, Section 171.021, RSMo was amended to state that "every school in this state which is supported in whole or in part by public moneys shall ensure that the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America is recited in at least one scheduled class of every pupil enrolled in that school no less often than once per week. No student shall be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance."
Scheduled Flag Salute
In summary, scheduling a flag salute during the school day is a matter of local district policy. Objections to the flag salute by some parents on religious grounds should not prevent participation by other students. Students not participating on religious grounds should be provided a reasonable accommodation. Options would include allowing the student to stand without reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, to leave the room temporarily, or to remain seated quietly during the activity. School officials should work with parents to determine what is appropriate given the individual circumstances.