LAFAYETTE La. (The Advertiser) — The Lafayette Parish School System is taking steps to address concerns about its policy on students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
In particular, officials are giving strong consideration to removing a policy requirement that students stand during the pledge, even if they do not recite it because of religious beliefs. Any changes to that policy must be approved by the Lafayette Parish School Board.
The district received a letter Wednesday from the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. That letter alleges that a junior at Acadiana High contacted the group after being “badly mistreated” by a teacher for opting out of the reciting of the pledge.
According to the letter, the student, for “personal and religious reasons” does not wish to participate in the pledge exercise “in any manner.”
An Acadiana High teacher allegedly directed an expletive toward the student Monday after the student tried to sit during the pledge. The student remained seated during Tuesday’s pledge as well, at which point the teacher allegedly took the student into the hall, lectured him about soldiers dying and demanded to know why the student wished to sit during the pledge.
On Wednesday, before the pledge was recited, the teacher allegedly “badgered” the student again, “telling the student he should move to a different country,” according to the letter.
The letter added that Acadiana High office staff did not address the student’s concerns and told him he would have to take class in the guidance office if he refused to take part in the schoolwide morning pledge.
“The student’s rights in this situation … are very clear, and the treatment he has received from your school and school district is reprehensible. The professional conduct of your staff toward this student has been shameful, in direct conflict with the high-minded principles of freedom upon which this nation was founded,” the letter said.
Superintendent Donald Aguillard said he and his staff have reviewed the letter, take the concerns seriously and are taking steps to address them.
Aguillard added that Acadiana High Principal David LeJeune took immediate action upon learning of the concerns.
“We are going to be working with our attorneys to make some changes to that particular policy,” Aguillard said.
The policy will be reviewed by the Lafayette Parish School Board in May.
“The Lafayette Parish School Board’s continuing educational mission includes ensuring that the rights of all students and staff throughout the school system are respected and upheld,” the district said in a news release.