Delaware could remove law requiring students to pledge allegiance to report

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Some Delaware lawmakers want to drop a state law that requires public school students to pledge allegiance to the American flag and punish teachers with jail time if they don’t enforce it.

By law, teachers and principals who do not ask their students to pledge allegiance to the flag can be fined up to $ 50 or jailed for up to 10 days.

Bill 107 by Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, would still demand that students pledge allegiance to the American flag every school day. But instead of forcing all students to cite the pledge, the bill would allow students who do not want to participate to stand in silence or remain seated.

The bill also states that schools cannot discriminate whether or not a student has sworn allegiance to the flag because of their political, philosophical or religious beliefs. The bill also applies the law to charter schools.

The bill came after one of Baumbach’s voters reached out, saying his niece was told by her teacher that they had to pledge allegiance on a daily basis. The voter didn’t think the teacher was right, but Baumbach said he researched and found the law “clearly unconstitutional”.

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“It is simply not true,” he said.

If Delaware removes the requirement, that would be in line with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling some 78 years ago.

In the 1943 case, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Supreme Court ruled that such a requirement violated First Amendment rights because it required students to declare a belief.

Baumbach was quick to point out this exclusion, arguing that you cannot “support the Bill of Rights in pieces.”

“If you are free in this country to say whatever you want, you are also free not to be compelled to say things,” he said, dismissing critics’ argument that removing the requirement would be. unpatriotic.

“Our soldiers died for our country, and that includes for those principles which are currently violated by Delaware law.”

Baumbach said he had heard no refusals from any of his 61 fellow state lawmakers. But it’s still unclear whether it will be passed in this year’s legislative session.

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“We (lawmakers) have all taken an oath to uphold the US Constitution, so I find it hard to see how a colleague can vote against this bill,” Baumbach said. “For me, a vote against this bill, you can argue, is a violation of your oath of office. So it will be interesting to see if there is debate.”

The current law was enacted in 1925 for the purpose of teaching patriotism in schools, according to an article in the News Journal that year.

It did not happen without a fight. Some lawmakers at the time were concerned that the punishment for teachers was too harsh, and one lawmaker said: “There was not a teacher in the state but who would like the flag to be displayed all the time in schools. schools, “according to the article.

“If I were a teacher and this state passed such a bill, I would say goodbye to Delaware,” said the dissenting lawmaker.

The sponsor of the bill replied, “We told them (teachers) that if they didn’t read the Bible every day in schools, what we would do to them, and no one said anything against this sanction. .

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Just a few years after the law was passed, a group of Mennonite students at a southern Delaware public school faced its repercussions when they refused to take the oath of allegiance or stand by. hand over heart to salute the flag.

The students cited their religious belief that they would not swear allegiance to a nation before God and were ultimately expelled.

It was after World War I and “bad feelings” were rampant against German Americans, including many German-born Mennonites, according to a 1987 article in the Salisbury Daily Times in Maryland.

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After the evictions, Mennonite families came together to found Greenwood Mennonite School in 1928. This school is now the oldest operating Mennonite elementary school.

Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online / The News Journal. Contact her at (302) 324-2281 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.

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