Fla. Student Handbooks to Offer Pledge of Allegiance Opt Out

By Eric Scheiner | May 18, 2016 | 1:59pm EDT
Students stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Starting in July, Florida schools will give students an opt-out option for the Pledge of Allegiance in their student handbooks and an atheist group is working to make sure it’s in the pages.

The American Atheists and Central Florida Freethought Community have sent a letter to school districts informing them, “We will, after the start of the 2016-2017 school year, request a copy of your district’s student handbook(s) to verify compliance with Florida’s law requiring your district to notify students of their rights under the Constitution.”

The requirement to publish the opt out in the school handbook and to excuse students from standing during the Pledge of Allegiance is inside a lengthy school choice bill Florida lawmakers passed into law earlier this year.

Previously, if a student had a parent's note they did not have to recite the pledge. But teachers could ask them to stand.

The May 10th letter from American Atheists National Legal and Public Policy Director, Amanda Knief and Founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community, David Williamson requests assurance that:

“1. written notices will be placed in your district’s student handbook(s) that inform students of their right not to participate—by saying or standing—in the pledge, and in cases where students cannot read or need special accommodation, oral or other means of communication be used to tell students of their constitutional rights not to participate;

2. that staff be instructed that under no circumstances should they attempt to persuade students to refrain from exercising their right to nonparticipation, question students about their nonparticipation, or characterize opting out as misconduct or unpatriotic; and

 3. that no disciplinary or other retaliatory measures of any kind be taken toward any student for nonparticipation in pledge rituals.” 

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