The Pledge: Why Do Students Not Stand?

We were all taught to recite the pledge in elementary school and middle school: right hand over your heart, and then a few lines. Every morning, this was a norm. However, as students get older, some start to question the recitation of the Pledge Of Allegiance. It might be because they disagree with American policy, or that they do not agree with saying the word “God” in the pledge. Here’s a breakdown of the history behind the Pledge of Allegiance, why it’s stated in schools, and why it’s such a big deal that people object to standing for it. 

The Pledge of Allegiance was initiated in the late 1800’s. It was first intended to instill patriotism and heal the country after the Civil War, but it later took on a more defining role. The Pledge of Allegiance was used as a way to help assimilate immigrants: the thought was that by saying the pledge to America’s goals, then everyone would be united in that common goal. Up until WWII, it was mandated for all students in schools in the United States of America to state the pledge. 

Not standing — or standing — for the Pledge of Allegiance became a widely known issue when Colin Kapernick, a football player for the 49ers, knelt down during the National Anthem. With that, some students have embraced this full force. In many states, if a student has an objection to policy in the United States, they do not need to stand. 

After WWII, the Supreme Court left it up to the states to decide how they wanted to manage the saying of the pledge. However, they did say that no school or government can force students to say it. This was ruled in West Virginia v. Barnette, which declared that individual states have the final say. Currently, 47 states require the pledge to be heard in schools, with different exemptions among them. In New Jersey, for example, students are required to at the very least stand, and remove headwear while the pledge is being delivered. Moreover, in 1978, the Supreme Court ordered that students do not have to stand if they object  or if the student has a religious, moral or conscientious reason not to do so,” according to the NJPSA. 

It is within teachers’ and administrators’ rights to ask students to stand, but students can refuse on the above grounds. However, the NJPSA states that if a student is simply tired or does not wish to stand without giving a plausible reason, the administration is within their rights to take further action without physically forcing students.

Historically, the Pledge of Allegiance’s intent was  to foster a sense of national identity and unity. However, recently, there’s been debate about whether or not to remove the Pledge of Allegiance in schools altogether, or at least make it so those students who object have the freedom to sit down. Today, some people abuse that right by being on cell phones, which is disrespectful to peers who stand, the nation itself, and those who died to give them the right to sit for the pledge in the first place. Most states require that students be respectful during the recitation of the pledge, meaning that there should be no phones, laptops or even books for the less than a minute duration in which it is said. Dr. Toriello affirmed that, “Morris Hills is in full compliance with federal and state laws and guidelines. If students aren’t standing, it is fully expected that they sit silently during the pledge at their desks, not on phones or laptops or simply reading a book, as this could be distracting to students and disrespectful to their peers.”