The Pledge of Allegiance may be mandatory for Arizona students from kindergarten to 12th grade unless a parent requests that they be excused.
Last week District 16 Representative John Fillmore, a Republican, introduced House Bill 2017 which aims to amend Section 15-506 – regarding the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. The statue currently says schools shall set aside a specific time each day for students from kindergarten through 12th grade “who wish to recite the pledge of allegiance,” to do so. Fillmore’s revision would make the Pledge of Allegiance a requirement for students unless a parent requests that they be excused.
“It is kind of an optional thing around the state,” Fillmore said. “Maybe it is an overreach… Let’s just say it should be being done in the schools in my opinion.”
Lake Havasu School Board President Kathy Cox said currently school district policy is that every student stand for the Pledge of Allegiance each morning.
They are not required to recite the pledge, especially if there is a religious objection, but students are asked to at least stand and face the flag respectfully.
“As far as I know that has always worked, and it is simple,” Cox said.
Fillmore said the bill is more about teaching students about the Pledge of Allegiance rather than handing out any specific punishment if a student refuses to participate without parental permission to be excused.
“I don’t think there should be any disciplinary action – that is between the teacher, the parents and the kid,” Fillmore said. “I’m not trying to create problems with the kids and the parents. I think it is good for the kids to know the Pledge of Allegiance and have at least some kind of understanding of what the pledge is about.”
The proposed bill also introduces a new requirement that K-12 schools set aside at least one minute every day, “for pupils to engage in quite reflection and moral reasoning.” Quite reflection would also be mandatory for students unless a parent requests that they be excused.
“It’s not a prayer – because the Supreme Court says that is a no-no – but a moment of reflection,” Fillmore said.
Each classroom in the Lake Havasu School District already observes a moment of silence every day following the Pledge of Allegiance, Cox said.
The bill would only apply to public schools. Private schools, parochial schools, and homeschools are exempt.
Fillmore said the bill has already started getting some attention since it was introduced last week.
“That might be a tough fight for me to get that one past,” Fillmore said. “People are resistant sometimes when you push that kind of stuff.”
Legal protection for teachers
Another bill introduced by Fillmore – HB 2016 – aims to provide teachers with a little more protection in their role as a disciplinarian. Section 15-516 already protects a full time teacher from personal liability for actions taken in good faith in evaluating or grading a student. The proposal would add the same immunity for teachers in, “disciplining any student if the teacher disciplines the student in accordance with law.”
“All I’m saying with that bill is I am extending the coverage that school boards have for (teachers),” Fillmore said. “It is really a technical bill. If a teacher disciplines a student in accordance with statutes – whether they hold them after class or whatever they do – the parents can’t just arbitrarily sue the teacher. The school board has to help the teachers.”
Fillmore said he isn’t aware of any issues with teachers being sued for disciplining a student, but he said several people have brought it up as a potential concern.