The Maryland Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently announced that for the fourth time in eight years, it has taken action against the Montgomery County Public School system regarding a student’s rights to decline to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.
This most recent incident involved Enidirs Siurano-Rodriguez, a 10th grade student at Damascus High School, who was protesting U.S. government policies toward Puerto Rico, which is her family's native country.
According to the ACLU’s press release, Siurano-Rodriguez was initially sent to the principal’s office, where the assistant principal “improperly demanded to know why she persisted in sitting during the Pledge.”
The school then contacted the student’s mother, stating that Enidirs would be removed from class if she continued to sit during the pledge, the ACLU said.
David Rocah, staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland, was quoted in the release as saying, "The law is crystal clear that a public school cannot embarrass or harass a student for maintaining a respectful silence during the Pledge of Allegiance. What is not clear is why teachers and school officials in Montgomery County have repeatedly violated students' rights by seeking to compel recitation of the Pledge."
The ACLU contends that it has received “multiple complaints” from MCPS students at schools including Germantown’s Roberto Clemente Middle School, Takoma Park Middle School, Northwood High School, Takoma Park’s Rolling Terrace Elementary School and Gaithersburg High School.
MCPS does have a regulation (JFA-RA) that specifically outlines a student’s rights when it comes to such events. Section H.2.a states: “Students have a right to not be compelled to participate in patriotic exercises, or be penalized or embarrassed for failure to participate.”
On April 9, the ACLU sent a letter to MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr, MCPS Board of Education President Christopher Barclay and Damascus High School officials seeking “meetings with the superintendent and high school to discuss what steps will be taken to ensure that violations do not keep occurring.”