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To Rise or Not to Rise, That is the Question

Lillian Hui, Editor-in-Chief

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The Pledge of Allegiance was formally adopted by Congress in 1942 and has been recited daily by students all across the United States of America to express their allegiance to the flag of the United States ever since. This is a long-standing tradition in America and has been taught to students in school as early as preschool. In light of NFL player Colin Kaepernick‘s bold decision to kneel during the national anthem, many have begun to wonder if this act is disrespectful or an act of peaceful protest.

As this seemed to be an important topic for several students because they do not rise for the Pledge of Allegiance, I did my own research. In the state of New Jersey, students who choose to follow Kaepernick’s approach and remain seated during the pledge are not required to stand “at the force of attention,” as long as they are exercising their right to free expression and are not being disruptive.

Throughout New Jersey state history, there have been several court cases in which students who did not rise faced punishment for their actions such as suspension and expulsion. In the majority of the cases, however, the forms of punishment have been overruled as it violates children’s right to freedom of speech.

In our own community, New Milford High School is open to students standing by their own beliefs and not rising for the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning. NMHS principal, Mr. Louis Manuppelli, has even stated that students are not required to stand for the pledge.

When asked if a student seen sitting must explain themselves, Mr. Manuppelli said, “I would ask the student privately at a different time as to why they are not standing, just for my own interest. As long as the student is not infringing upon the right of his or her classmates and teacher, there is no issue.”

NMHS English teacher, Mrs. Jessica Groff, said she had her first period students discuss the Kaepernick situation and looked back on it herself. “I don’t make any kids stand. As a personal preference, I stand and my kids follow me. But if they don’t, I don’t yell at them. I used to, but since this whole Kaepernick situation, I don’t anymore.” She added, “We had a whole debate about it in my period one class at the beginning of the year. We read articles and did research, so I would be a hypocrite to yell at them to stand now.”

Many students had differing opinions on the matter, and some shared how they did not believe it was disrespectful while others found it depended on the reasoning.

Senior Joanna Zaccardi (’17), said staying seated or rising really depends on the type of day for her. “People who don’t stand are not disrespectful. I’m well aware of my privileges of being in this country and I do not need to stand and pledge to prove that.”

Felicia Pasculli (’17), said she rises for the pledge but does not personally get offended by those who do not stand, “because what others choose to do with their beliefs and their rights is their business. There’s no right for me to judge them for what they think is right.”

Known in the community to speak her mind on topics of debate, senior Stephanie Torres (’17) gave her opinion, as well. “I don’t stand and it is a constitutional right not to.” She explained, “Sitting for the pledge has nothing to do with ‘disrespecting’ our troops or not being patriotic.”

Torres added, “I will not stand for lies. We are not equal, and until we are I will not stand.”

Liam McAveney (’17) added historical knowledge to his response when asked to discuss if he felt not standing is an act of disrespect. “I feel it’s disrespectful but it’s your constitutional right to not stand for the pledge. The pledge was created out of post war fears of communism sweeping the United States.” He added, “It has nothing to do with respect for the country, but instead has to do with the allegiance of young children to the country itself.”

The final opinion, by a student who wishes to stay anonymous, agrees with most of the others. “I do stand but I don’t get offended when people don’t stand, because it’s their right to remain seated and it will take much more than that to offend me. What other people do is their own business; I choose to stand and I’m proud to stand but if you don’t that is completely your choice.”

The student further added, “I can see why people who don’t stand may be viewed as disrespectful but there’s two sides to every story. There are people who die for your right to stand or sit for the flag salute and I do think that is something that should be considered, but there are people who feel slighted in our country and their best way to address that is to sit for the pledge. I personally don’t understand it and I think that if you live here, you should be proud to be here, but not everyone thinks the same way as I do.”

The matter of rising or staying seated for the Pledge of Allegiance is an ongoing topic of debate but our students seem to have a very distinct opinion on where they each stand. I hope by presenting this information, more students will feel less obligated to rise if they are uncomfortable doing so. We need to shed some light on issues like this in our community in order to express our freedoms as students and this is us taking the first step in doing so.

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The student news site of New Milford High School, New Milford, New Jersey
To Rise or Not to Rise, That is the Question