A waiver form allowing students at schools in Leon County, Florida to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance was withdrawn on Monday after it sparked public backlash.
The form was widely criticised on social media after Facebook user Micah Brienen posted a photo of the waiver online with “This is the dumbest thing I have ever read and I am so ashamed of this,” scrawled across it in ink. Brienen’s niece, who attends Killearn Lakes Elementary School in Leon County, brought the form home.
The form was sent out to comply with a state law that requires that the district give students the option to abstain from the Pledge of Allegiance, Leon County Schools spokesperson Chris Petley told ABC27. This is the first year the school district chose to include the form in the student handbook, which Petley said that the district had decided to remove.
Leon County Schools also stated that this yea a change in Florida law signed by Republican governor Rick Scott “requires all school districts to publish in the student code of conduct booklet the students’ right to not participate in reciting the pledge of allegiance.”
Here’s the form:
Due to public outcry over the form, Superintendent Jackie Pons decided to remove the waiver from remaining student handbooks. As of Tuesday morning, the form had been removed, and parents would instead be required to sign a form stating they have read the student handbook, according to Petley. A newer version of the handbook now includes language directly taken from the statute instead of a notice from the school district.
In an email interview with the Tallahassee Democrat, Micah Brienen expressed his belief that although he respects freedom of speech, he also believes students should respect the Pledge of Allegiance.
“”First, I want to be very clear that I do not believe a child should be forced to recite the Pledge or stand up. It is their right to opt out, but I do personally feel it is respectful to stand if you are physically able, even if you want to do so in silence,” Brienan wrote to the Tallahassee Democrat.
However, he also emphasised his opposition to the waiver form and the Florida law, stating, “Although more must be done to defend our country’s values and traditions, what’s next? no American flags in school? It’s just another example of progressive politics destroying our school system.”
Leon Country Schools also issued a statement on the controversy surrounding the waiver forms, announcing their removal of the form from student handbooks and noting, “Leon County Schools values patriotism, civic responsibility, and the pledge of allegiance.”
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