Law & Courts

Pa. Weighs Appeal of Ruling Invalidating Pledge Mandate

By Caroline Hendrie — September 22, 2004 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Pennsylvania officials were still debating last week whether to keep up their legal fight to defend a state law requiring all schools to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance each day and to inform parents if their children declined to participate.

The 2-year-old statute was struck down as unconstitutional in a federal district court last year. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, in Philadelphia, unanimously affirmed that ruling last month.

Notifying the parents of students who decline to recite the pledge or salute the flag “clearly discriminates among students based on the viewpoints they express,” the appeals panel found. For that reason, it held, the law impermissibly infringes students’ First Amendment right to free speech.

The appeals panel also agreed with the lower court that the pledge statute violates the First Amendment rights of the six private schools that joined with four public and private school parents in challenging the law.

Mandating daily recitation of the pledge tramples on the schools’ freedom of association because it requires them to adhere to a particular method of instilling civic values that goes against their philosophies of education, the appeals court said. The state’s interest in teaching patriotism and civics in all schools is a compelling one, it held, but less restrictive means exist to pursue it than to mandate “the rote recitation of prescribed words.”

The 2002 law, which the state has been ordered by the district court not to enforce, requires schools to provide for the recitation of the pledge or the singing of the national anthem each day. It exempts nonpublic schools for which displaying or pledging allegiance to the United States’ flag “violates the religious conviction on which the school is based.”

Students may also opt out of the pledge “on the basis of religious conviction or personal belief,” the statute says. A 1943 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that schools cannot compel individual students to recite the pledge.

"[M]ost citizens of the United States willingly recite the Pledge of Allegiance and proudly sing the national anthem,” the appeals court’s Aug. 19 ruling says. “But the rights embodied in the Constitution, most particularly in the First Amendment, protect the minority—those persons who march to their own drummers. It is they who need the protection afforded by the Constitution and it is the responsibility of federal judges to ensure that protection.”

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general said last week that the office was still discussing whether to ask the full appeals court to rehear the case or the Supreme Court to review the ruling.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Letter to the Editor Religion in the Classroom May Be Legal, But Is It Just?
A teacher responds to Louisiana's Ten Commandments law.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Law & Courts Posting Ten Commandments in Schools Was Struck Down in 1980. Could That Change?
In 1980, the justices invalidated a Kentucky law, similar to the new Louisiana measure, requiring classroom displays of the Decalogue.
13 min read
Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signs bills related to his education plan on June 19, 2024, at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Lafayette, La. Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom, the latest move from a GOP-dominated Legislature pushing a conservative agenda under a new governor.
Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican, signs bills related to his education plan on June 19, 2024, at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Lafayette, La. One of those new laws requires that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom, but the law is similar to one from Kentucky that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 1980.
Brad Bowie/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP
Law & Courts Biden's Title IX Rule Is Now Blocked in 14 States
A judge in Kansas issued the third injunction against the Biden administration's rule granting protections to LGBTQ+ students.
4 min read
Kansas high school students, family members and advocates rally for transgender rights, Jan. 31, 2024, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. On Tuesday, July 2, a federal judge in Kansas blocked a federal rule expanding anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ students from being enforced in four states, including Kansas and a patchwork of places elsewhere across the nation.
Kansas high school students, family members and advocates rally for transgender rights, Jan. 31, 2024, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. On Tuesday, July 2, a federal judge in Kansas blocked a federal rule expanding anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ students from being enforced in four states, including Kansas, and a patchwork of places elsewhere across the nation.
John Hanna/AP
Law & Courts Student Says Snapchat Enabled Teacher's Abuse. Supreme Court Won't Hear His Case
The high court, over a dissent by two justices, decline to review the scope of Section 230 liability protection for social media platforms.
4 min read
The United States Supreme Court is seen in Washington, D.C., on July 1, 2024.
The U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington, D.C., on July 1, 2024. The high court declined on July 2 to take up a case about whether Snapchat could be held partially liable for a teacher's sexual abuse of a student.
Aashish Kiphayet/NurPhoto via AP