An atheist group has demanded that a Pennsylvania school apologize to a student who reportedly was refused medical treatment because she exercised her right not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.
In a letter to the Carlisle Area School District last week, American Humanist Association attorney Monica Miller explained that an eighth grade student had contacted the organization to report that she had been mistreated after declining to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at Wilson Middle School on April 2.
Following the Pledge, the student said that she was berated by a school nurse.
“Why didn’t you stand for the Pledge?” the nurse reportedly asked loudly. The student said that she explained that she had the right not to participate.
“Fine! Then leave! I have the right to not service you!” the student said the nurse shouted in reply.
“The student reports that she left the nurse’s office in tears and went to the administrative offices to call her mother,” Miller wrote. A secretary then led the student to an office, but at that time the same nurse appeared again, saying, ‘She isn’t calling a parent until I have a long conversation with her!'”
A guidance counselor eventually “showed some sympathy” for the student, but incorrectly stated that she would have to wait in the hallway if she did not want to stand for the Pledge.
“The student politely tried to explain that she is under no obligation to stand in the hallway as such, to which the counselor replied that it was ‘district policy,’ apparently unaware that ‘district policy’ does not trump federal law,” Miller noted.
The American Humanist Association called for the school system to ensure that all staff were aware that students had a right not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance under federal law, and that staff must refrain from attempting to persuade or punish anyone who did not participate.
“The actions of the nurse are indefensible, as she provides an example of the kind of overzealous, dangerous patriotism that any true patriot would loathe,” Miller wrote. “The student was left angry and scarred by this mean-spirited hostility, which is only made worse by the fact that it came from a person trusted with the health and well being of students. Moreover, the nurse’s refusal to give the child medical attention calls into question her fitness for the job.”
The association said that the school district owed the student a public written apology for her mistreatment.
In a statement, the school system remarked that it was aware of the complaint, and that it was investigating. The American Humanist Association has said that it wanted a response within seven days.
Watch the video below from WHTM, broadcast April 13, 2015.