A student in Illinois found himself confronted by his teacher when he remained sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance in his high school homeroom. Shermar Cooper, 15, was physically pulled out of a chair when his teacher, identified only as Ms. Alfano, became offended at his refusal to stand.
Cooper’s mother informed the teacher that no one is required to stand for or even participate in the pledge. Alfano responded by saying that Cooper’s refusal to stand was disrespectful to both the country and the military that protects it.
Cooper was inspired by San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick who recently ignited a passionate discussion across social media when he remained seated on the bench during the national anthem. The player said he was protesting the way minorities are treated, but many people saw his act as disloyal and lacking in patriotism.
American Humanist Association director Roy Speckhardt said students who exercise their free-speech rights by either sitting or not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance are demonstrating important critical thinking skills. He added that students have had the right to opt out of the pledge for over 70 years, and teachers must respect that even if it clashes with their own values.