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On Monday, a first grade student at Wiregrass Elementary School in Pasco County, Florida followed the lead of his favorite football players and got down on one knee when the rest of his class said the Pledge of Allegiance.
It was his way of protesting racial injustice in this country.
His teacher didn’t understand that, and she sure as hell didn’t care, because she sent the boy’s mother, Eugenia McDowell (below), a text message letting her know about how her child was disobedient and how she told him he had to stand up.


The text message read:

“I just wanted to let you know that this morning when it was time to do the Pledge of Allegiance, (your son) went down on one knee. I knew where he had seen it but I did tell him that in the classroom we are learning what it means to be a good citizen we’re learning about respecting the United States of America and our country symbols and showing loyalty and patriotism and that we stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I know its a sensitive issue but I wanted to make you aware. Thanks”

The mother’s response? What the hell is wrong with you?
She told a local ABC affiliate that, while she never told her son to take a knee, she respected his decision and she didn’t think the teacher had any right saying otherwise.

“She told him right away, based on what he told me, to stand up and to stop it… That’s not her right.

The mother is correct. Students can kneel during the Pledge. They can turn their backs on the flag. They can remain seated or silent. It’s all okay, and no teacher can force you to do otherwise. But even District officials seem confused about this.

Linda Cobbe with the school district says they followed state law. But did add, “It would have been better if the teacher would have pulled the student aside and talked about it. without the other students witnessing it.”
“State law says that the only way that a student can be exempted from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is if they have a written request from their parent and even then the law says that they still have to stand,” Cobbe said.

Cobbe has no clue what she’s talking about.
The issue wasn’t the public shaming. The issue was what the teacher said to the boy. It wouldn’t have been okay in private, either. And her comments about how Florida law requires students to stand unless they have permission from their parents is completely backwards. Last year, in fact, a state law was passed requiring districts to let students know they don’t have to stand for the Pledge.
I know that and I don’t even work in the damn state. How did the District’s Communications Department Director screw it up when it’s literally the only thing she needed to talk about?
The correct response would’ve been: “The teacher screwed up. The child had every right to kneel during the Pledge and we support our students’ rights. We will make sure all teachers are aware of what the law says so this never happens again. And we apologize to the boy and his family for our mistake. I hereby resign and appoint Hemant to take my place.”
Something like that.
Hats off to the child, though, for taking a stand for his beliefs in a perfectly acceptable way. Here’s hoping he keeps doing it.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.

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