Florida District Pledge Opt-Out Form Incites Parent Backlash

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

Florida's Leon County Schools (LCS) sent a form to parents that allowed them to opt their children out of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which was quickly rejected by so many that the idea was scrapped almost immediately by district officials.

Micah Brienen, whose niece attends Killearn Lakes Elementary, posted the form on Facebook and with this sentiment written across it: "This is the dumbest thing I have ever read. I am so ashamed of this." The post has been shared by almost 3,500 people by the end of the day.

LCS said the form was sent because of a state law passed in the spring that required that parents be informed of their rights concerning the Pledge. The instructions were to be communicated through individual schools' handbooks. LCS publishes its handbook online, but the district had planned to disperse some hand-held copies as well, writes Ryan Daily for the Tallahassee Democrat. The school has estimated that approximately 400 form copies were passed out.

But LCS Superintendent Jackie Pons decided it was time to remove the document in all its incarnations.

"It was yesterday on the way to work I received a phone call from an individual related to the agreement form. When I got there and looked at the form, it was the first time I was aware of it, I pulled it," Pons said Tuesday.

The statement sent from LCS to announce the decision to get rid of the form began with these words:

"Leon County Schools values patriotism, civic responsibility, and the Pledge of Allegiance."

The student handbook was revised and now directions are quoted directly from the state legislation, Florida Statute 1003.44:

"each student shall be informed by a written notice published in the student handbook or a similar publication pursuant to s. 1006.07(2) that the student has the right not to participate in reciting the pledge."

Brienen, an optometrist, appreciated the efforts made by LCS and said that all Americans could make a difference in the world. He asked that everyone unite to save America together, according to The Blaze's Dave Urbanski.

Some commenters on social media took the opportunity to express their anger against President Obama for the anti- patriotism symbolized by the opt-out form. But apparently they did not understand that pupils in Florida have had the option not to recite the Pledge since 2000, at least. This right came into being long before the President was elected, writes Dan Evon for Snopes.

This idea that Mr. Obama had something to do with the opt-out issue might have occurred because of a fake news story, released earlier, that erroneously detailed how the President had signed an executive order that would bar the Pledge from all US schools.

According to the hoax-debunking site, the Pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a socialist minister. In 1954, President Eisenhower, because of the Communist threat at the time, asked Congress to add the words "under God" to the Pledge. However, Bellamy's daughter was opposed to this addition.

The flag code explains that when not in uniform, men reciting the Pledge should remove any headdress (except those used for religious reasons) and with their right hand hold it at the left shoulder and put their hand over their heart.

Uniformed military persons should remain silent, face the flag, and present a military salute. All others should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.

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