A Florida teacher was recently suspended without pay for five days after school officials said that she forced a fourth grade student to violate his religious beliefs and say the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Tampa Bay Timesreported that the student, whose Jehovah's Witness religion forbids him from worshiping objects, was used to standing silent while the other students put their hands over their hearts and recited the pledge.
But on the morning of Sept. 11, Explorer K-8 School teacher Anne Daigle-McDonald forcibly placed the boy's hand over his heart.
"You are an American, and you are supposed to salute the flag," she said, turning to the class. "In my classroom, everyone will do the pledge; no religion says that you can't do the pledge."
"If you can't put your hand on your heart, then you need to move out of the country," the teacher reportedly added.
Hernando County Schools Division of Business Services-Heather Martin Executive Director later told Daigle-McDonald that nearly all of the students in her fourth grade class had recalled her telling them the next day to move back to their home country if they didn't want to say the pledge.
"But that's not what I said," Daigle-McDonald insisted. "It was directed at citizenship. I was talking about pledging allegiance to our country, and if you don't want to pledge to our country, you should go to your home country."
The teacher said that she had no idea that the boy was a Jehovah's Witness but admitted that the mother had told her he did not celebrate holidays.
"[I] just wanted all of the students to respect the day," she remarked. "It wasn't a holiday, so I didn't see why the whole class couldn't say the pledge."
In its 1943 West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette ruling, the Supreme Court found that it was unconstitutional to force students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
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