Reading Time: 2 minutes

If you’re a student at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, California, you may have seen Principal Dr. Ben Dale visiting classrooms in the morning to find out who’s standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. This, apparently, is what he thinks is a good use of his time.

Dale also used the intercom to announce his distaste for Pledge protesters. A teacher reported his actions to the American Humanist Association, which just sent a letter to the school district:

… The teacher reports that…[Dale] announced over the intercom on Wednesday, September 11, 2019, that he was “personally offended by any teacher or student who did not stand for the pledge.” Mr. Dale has been going to classes to determine who is standing and who is not. The teacher is concerned that their students’ rights are being violated.

While there’s no indication anyone’s been punished for refusing to stand, or that any students are even protesting at all, the idea that a principal would pressure kids to stand for a religious, xenophobic, pseudo-patriotic ritual is appalling.

Students can always remain seated during the Pledge. No one has to say it. In fact, it’s a waste of time for schools to even bother with it. But what Dale is doing crosses all kinds of legal boundaries.

Says AHA attorney Monica Miller:

Students at Manhattan Beach Unified School District schools do not deserve to be mistreated merely because they choose to exercise their constitutional rights. Based on the above, we demand the following written assurances: (1) That all students and teachers in your school district be advised that students may stay seated for any Pledge exercise at the school; (2) That teachers and administrators be instructed that under no circumstances should they attempt to persuade students to refrain from exercising the right to nonparticipation, question students as to the reason for nonparticipation, or characterize opting out as misconduct or otherwise wrongful; and (3) That no disciplinary or other retaliatory measures of any kind will be directed toward any student or teacher for nonparticipation in the Pledge exercise.

The school has one week to respond.

How the hell does someone become principal with no awareness of why students might want to sit out the Pledge ritual? How little do you have to care about students that you seek out the ones who understand the Pledge in order to coerce them to stand anyway?

The irony is that Dale himself says his personal philosophy is to “make school a place where everyone can enjoy success” and to make sure “everyone here feels part of our family.”

He should take his own advice.

Avatar photo

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.