ACLU: Students file complaints on right to sit during pledge

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two students at separate schools have filed complaints with the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana saying they were told they would be punished for sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance, an act protected as free speech.

ACLU Director Marjorie Esman said the organization had received two complaints in 24 hours.

“If it’s happening in two parts of the state that we know about, it’s probably happening in more than that, and people just haven’t reported it to us,” she said Thursday.

Rather than deal only with the two districts in question, she said, she has written every school superintendent in Louisiana.

“Schools may not punish students for refusing to stand for the Pledge or to salute the flag. Any such punishments violate the clear rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court and the fundamental rights of your students,” said the letter sent Thursday by email or fax.

Silent protests against social injustice have spread nationwide since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem this NFL season.

Esman wouldn’t say which school districts are involved. “Who knows who’s going to camp out at the schools and start harassing students?” she said.

Neither student has been punished, but they were threatened with suspension or detention if they continued the protests, Esman said.

Esman said she usually gets such a complaint every few years but has never received two so close together.

She doesn’t know if the occurrence of such incidents is up or just the reporting.

“It may be now, because of Colin Kaepernick, people are reporting it more. Whether people are reporting more because they feel empowered or whether it’s happening more often … I just don’t know,” she said.

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