Franklin school: Student has right sit during pledge
By Amy Bartner
February 27, 2008
Franklin school officials had a quick reply Tuesday for a student who sued over his right not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance: You’re right.
Administrators in the Johnson County school district said they already had started to resolve the complaint from the 17-year-old, who said he was wrongly given detention after refusing to stand in class for the pledge.
“Our attorney addressed it and basically indicated that the student was correct and the school administration had erred,” said Franklin School Superintendent William Patterson.
Our Story: In 2005 the World's Third-Worst State Legislature™ (Motto: Louisiana Is "Reforming", It's Time To Move Up!), out of a spasm of patriotic fervor/concern over dwindling military enlistments/fear that Kansas was becoming an innovator in Making High School Students Do Stupid Shit, enshrines as a legal right every Hoosier students' daily opportunity to say the Plejullejence and observe a moment of silence which may or may not include, without institutional interference, an invocation to the Higher Power or Powers of his or her choice to smite that smirk off Jaime Reynolds' face Once and For All, amen. The Legislature also provides the funding to put a fire-retardant flag in every classroom, lest students start twirling like Dervishes looking for the thing and accidentally adopt a new religion. This was the last time the Legislature actually anticipated a problem before it created it, and also the last time it funded an educational initiative.
Cut to: Franklin (IN) Community High School ("Home of the Grizzly Cubs"), 2008, and a week very much like the last one, where a student known to the legal system only as "J.L." refuses to stand for this and is reprimanded by Teacher. (According to the lawsuit, when pressed for his legal justification in ordering the student to stand, Teacher replied "because I said so." It's left unclear whether he realized he was quoting Charles Evans Hughes, though for education's sake we hope so.) When the same aberrant behavior resurfaces the following week, and spreads like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus to another lad, Teacher sends both to the school office.
(By the way, this reminds me of my own response when, in my junior year, facing an ever-increasing average length of student hair, my own high school ["Home of the Americanism Club"] instituted a weekly Plejullejence. It took place Fridays, third period, when my best friend and I had a study hall in the cafeteria. We took to grabbing one of the small tables along the wall, the one, not coincidentally, right under Old Glory. Then at the appointed PA system cackle we'd stand up, hands on hearts, and face the other 250 kids in the place while craning our necks like we were looking for the thing. Did that for a full year. I guess kids today favor the more direct approach.)
Here Our Story begins to be enclouded in murk, a situation familiar to regular readers of the Indianapolis Racist Star as well as anyone who's ever listened to the public pronouncements of a school district spokesman who has discovered a prominent, if metaphorical, portion of his anatomy caught in the proverbial wringer. "J.L.'s" lawsuit says an (unnamed) assistant principal ordered him to serve an hour of after-school detention. Principal Craig McCaffrey says the school had not planned to take any action, but was unable to notify the two students before the suit was filed. (Couldn't find them, presumably.)
Principal McCaffrey also claimed that the students were not punished for refusing to stand for the pledge, but were merely asked to conduct their own legal research to prove they should be allowed to remain seated.
(The lawsuit, by the way, puts it, to use the legal term, slightly fucking differently; it claims that "J.L." presented the Unnamed Assistant principal evidence of his right to remained seated under Indiana Code 20-30-5-.05 and -4.5, and was informed by Mr. Anonymous that the school was "expanding the Indiana Code".)
McCaffrey told the Racist Star “We were in the process of solving the problem. There wasn’t enough time between Friday and Monday. Part of what the ACLU does is protect people’s civil liberties, but I think that’s my job as an educator.”
Really? When are you starting your job?
So, "protecting civil liberties" is part of your job, but a passing familiarity with the laws affecting student behavior, a reasonable grasp of the Constitution of the United States, not operating a public trust without resort to cheap intimidation, and getting your fucking story straight before talking to the newspaper, aren't?
Or finding time to Google Indiana state law, for that matter?
It's 20-fucking-08, bub. This sort of thing has been news at least since the "flag salute" cases of the 1940s, and the underlying Constitutional principles have been a hot-button issue in public education since the school prayer decisions of 1962 and 1963, or in other words, longer than you've been using oxygen and long enough that you might be expected to have a passing familiarity with it even if that weren't your job. Not to mention the fact that that goddam 2005 law was all over the local media at the time, as was its intention. It seems to me that students shouldn't be allowed to graduate from your institution without understanding the principles involved, or maybe even be promoted to it, let alone run the place. The World's Third-Worst State Legislature™ was savvy enough to understand it, and it's pretty clear at least half of them couldn't meet your graduation requirements.
So let's just face facts here, and then let's toss what's left in the circular file. First, you've got an enrollment of around 1400, situated in what in my day was an hour's athletic bus ride across amber fields of corn and soybeans but is now nearly edging Indianapolis' suburban sprawl. (Back in the day your cross-country course included a one-man footbridge over a dry creekbed, where, in 1969, I told my first and only Chappaquiddick joke, then blew past the guy in front of me when he started laughing. Always the fierce competitor.) The population, both town and school, is 97% white. Which, give or take a couple points, is the siren's call of all that development headed your way.
We feel justified in assuming, based on size, homogeneity, and recent scientific discoveries on the effects of inbreeding, that it was not very long after the initial incident--reported in the suit as occurring on the Friday of two weeks ago--before the whole place knew about it, meaning you should have, too. The next episode is the Tuesday after that, or immediately following the three-day Presidents' Day weekend. It's beyond our measure of charity to assume you hadn't heard about it once it escalated. Then, according to the suit and depending on which story one believes (yours is not exactly sparking confidence at this point) the student quotes relevant Indiana law, either in self-defense or as an "assignment", and is either rebuffed or ignored. We know this because the ACLU filed suit the following Friday, which despite popular fable, Country and Western song lore, and history lessons originating from talk radio, they don't do without first making a good-faith effort to resolve things. You ignored them, or blew them off, or maybe you explained Because I Said So, or Vice-Principal Anonymous told 'em you were expanding the Code. And no doubt more than once.
So let's shitcan (hey, it's Free Speech; treat it as a Learning Experience) this "no time between Friday and Monday to straighten things out" routine. The suit was filed on Friday, and by then you'd had a minimum of three days to read the straightforward English of the law and respond as a good citizen should have, although a really good citizen might have understood the laws he's responsible for overseeing in the first place. And now that taxpayers have to pay to respond to a lawsuit that could have been avoided had you a) known the law; b) bothered to look up the law; or c) not operated like a small-town bully, you claim time constraints?
Anything to add, Mr. McCaffrey?
McCaffrey said the students — along with administrators — learned something from the situation.
“Any type of process that can be a learning process is good,” he said. “I’m proud of the kids, and I think they did a good job.”
Now on to making that mulatto kid prove he's entitled to eat lunch with the white folks. His research was due yesterday.