See this kid? This is my youngest child, Jake. He has done something so amazing that my heart is fairly bursting with pride for him. Those of you who are friends with me on facebook already know what I'm talking about, but for everyone else, listen up - I want to tell you about a young man with the heart of a patriot, the soul of a leader and the mind of an activist.
Here in Texas, the State legislature passed a bill back in 2003 whereas the public schools are required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America (so far so good), followed by the Pledge to the flag of the State of Texas (not so good, at least not for Jake). Some of you might have guessed this (lol), but politics is a hot subject in our household. We talk about our country each and every day. We talk about the health care debate, we talk about the War on Terror, we talk about the joke that has become of this so-called "global warming". That's not to say politics and such consumes our conversations (well...maybe it consumes my conversations. lol) but we do spend a part of each day talking about current events. Jacob is very interested in these things. For instance, he was probably one of the few kids in his class that knew what "Cash for Clunkers" was about and what the "rules" for it were. At any rate, several weeks ago, Jacob decided that he no longer would stand during the pledge to the Texas flag. He had never recited that pledge, simply because he didn't believe in it, but he decided that even the act of standing during the recitation of the pledge was, in essence, a tacit agreement with that pledge. So he decided he would quietly sit at his desk instead. Before doing this, however, he talked with us, his parents. We told him that it was his First Amendment right to refuse to recite and/or stand for that pledge and that we would back him up if that's what he chose to do. His reason for not believing in it (which I'll get to) made sense to us and I applauded his choice. Unfortunately, Jacob's teacher saw it differently. He took it as a personal affront that Jake would not stand during the pledge and sent him to the assistant principal's office for discipline. The A.P. told Jake that he would either stand for the pledge or he would step outside the classroom while the pledge was being recited. Jake, very respectfully, refused to do either. The teacher and A.P. claimed that Jake was disrupting the class with his refusal to stand or leave, whereby Jake asserted that the teacher was causing the disruption by having Jake walk across the classroom to the door to be exiled during the pledge. The teacher then made Jacob sit at a desk next to the door to better facilitate his exit. (No other student in the class had assigned seating.) Jake, despite the pressure from the teacher and the A.P. maintained that it was his right to refuse to stand and that asking him to leave the classroom was, in effect, a punishment for that refusal. I called the A.P. to discuss the matter with him and he kept saying it was a matter of respect for the teacher for Jake to stand or step outside. I pointed out that they were violating Jake's First Amendment rights with their stance and yet, he persisted. He was quite adamant about it, in fact. I told him that I would be more than happy to discuss the situation with Jake one more time before we took any further action. And I did. I explained to Jake what the A.P.'s position was. Jake said he didn't agree. He was never disrespectful, he was never belligerent and he was not refusing to do it just to cause a ruckus. I've always wanted my children to understand the fine art of compromise, but even more importantly, I believe they should know when they shouldn't compromise. This was just such an instance. So I sat down at the computer and did a little research. Randey got involved and dug up some information as well. Between the two of us, we were able to cite four separate U.S. Federal Court cases that supported Jake's standpoint. I wrote a letter to the school principal detailing those 4 cases and informing him that his teacher and his A.P. were actively violating my son's First Amendment rights and I was not happy about it. I sent a copy of that letter to the school superintendent, the Commissioner of Education for the State of Texas and the Texas State Attorney General. (Didn't want any of them to be blindsided by this should the situation not work out here on the local level, don'tcha know.) Yesterday I received a phone call from the principal requesting a meeting. He didn't mention inviting Jacob, but that's okay because I invited him anyway. Jake and I went to the meeting this morning and well, it turned out wonderfully well for Jake. The principal, as well as the A.P., met with us and explained that the teacher had "misunderstood" the situation and thought it was school policy that all students stand and that they had spoken with him and corrected that misapprehension. (And here's a touch of irony for you...the class this guy teaches? Criminal Justice. You'd think he'd know a little more about the Constitution, eh?) We then discussed Jake's "assigned seat" and they agreed that, of course that wasn't a punishment and Jake is now free to sit wherever he chooses, just as the other students are allowed to do. The A.P. then asked Jake if he'd stood for the pledge last year or earlier this year. I interrupted and told him that was immaterial to the situation, but that if he was looking for an explanation for Jake's decision, it was due to Jake becoming more politically active and more aware of his rights and the value of them. I think the guy was trying to make Jake feel like he was just being a "rebel without a clue". But then Jake cleared that right up for them. They asked why he found the Texas flag pledge to be so abhorrent. And my son, the one who can drive me insane with his carelessness and his annoying habits, looked those two men straight in the eyes and told them it was because he is an American. He pledges his allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and feels that pledging to a single state is divisive and is against his beliefs. They were stunned. And silent. And me? I was bursting with pride for this young man who, with two simple sentences, explained his patriotism and his love of this great country of ours. You know, Texas is a wonderful state and I would recommend living here to anyone. But America is an even greater country and I'm proud that my son can see that so clearly and can articulate it with such wisdom. Go Jake! I'm proud of you for standing up for your Constitutional rights and I'm proud of you for doing it in such a calm, forthright and respectful manner. You 'da man, baby! (I am blessed with the best children in the world. Thank you, God!)
P.S. Thank you for the words of support and kindness given by those of you who commented on my previous post. I appreciate you. :)