An Alabama lawmaker introduced legislation requiring the state’s schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance after finding that his grandchild was not familiar with it.
House Bill 339, which was introduced last week by House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, is scheduled for a committee hearing on Wednesday, according to AL.com.
The Republican lawmaker was prompted to act after finding out last year that his fifth-grade grandchild wasn’t reciting the Pledge every morning at school, even though the Alabama Board of Education requires schools to allow students in public kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools to recite the Pledge every day.
The proposed bill seeks to transfer authority over the Pledge away from the school board, which is unable to enforce it, and make it a state law.
“I guess this gives it some teeth,” Ledbetter said. “It gives leaders of the schools and principals a law in place where they won’t be afraid for their students to say it.”
The law would not require students to recite the Pledge, as per previous court rulings, but the lawmaker noted that it would now keep it in the classroom and require schools to begin each day with it.
“There may be some religious objections,” he said, “We certainly don’t want anybody made to do it. But it does keep the Pledge in our schools.”
The National Conference of State Legislatures indicates that there are currently 43 states where the Pledge of Allegiance is required each day at school, AL.com reported. But, while the requirement is on the schools, students in the classrooms are not obligated to stand for the Pledge or to recite it, according to court rulings and the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, which barred schools from requiring students to do so.
“My hope is this doesn’t create a discipline problem,” Ledbetter said. “If [students] just sit down, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
Across the country, many schools and state governments have faced lawsuits over issues involving students and the Pledge of Allegiance, such as a student in Florida who was charged with disrupting a school function and resisting an officer earlier this year when a refusal to stand for the Pledge led to an argument with school officials.
The state of Texas is currently involved in a lawsuit because a student was disciplined for not standing for or reciting the Pledge, and in Colorado last year, a 20-year veteran teacher pleaded guilty to child abuse charges after physically forcing a middle-school student to his feet when he refused to stand for the Pledge.
Alabama’s House Education Policy Committee will take up Ledbetter’s bill on Wednesday.
“My concern is that’s just a part of our country we patronize,” the lawmaker said, according to AL.com. “It’s part of our heritage.”
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