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Maryland elementary school faces backlash over Pledge of Allegiance, 'mandatory patriotism'

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One Maryland public school was coerced into no longer requiring students and staff to recite the Pledge of Allegiance after a free speech group pushed back against what it called “mandatory patriotism.”

Twin Ridge Elementary School officials in Mount Airy reversed course on mandating the pledge after clarification was needed on the school’s policy for the salute. Back in April, the school emailed all staff clarifying that the Pledge of Allegiance was mandatory. 

It read, “all students and teachers are required ‘to stand and face the flag and while standing give an approved salute and recite in unison the pledge of allegiance,” according to the state’s code of education. 

Shortly after the clarification email was sent, the free speech nonprofit organization Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) demanded the school retract its stance, citing concerns stemming from the First Amendment. 

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The organization called out the school for failing to note that students and teachers could opt out of the pledge if they chose to do so. 

“The First Amendment protects not only your right to express yourself, but also the right to refrain from doing so. That includes refusing to salute the flag. Mandatory patriotism is no patriotism at all,” FIRE Senior Program Officer Stephanie Jablonsky said. 

Maryland mother Kathleen Champion joined “Fox & Friends First” to discuss why she was “not surprised” the school reversed course and the broader issue at hand stemming from patriotism and respect for the American flag. 

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“I do believe that everybody should stand for the pledge. I do understand that some people have religious beliefs that makes them have a difference from it, and that makes sense. I think that that should be the only exception that there is from it. But I really, honestly don’t understand why people have a problem standing and saying the pledge in this country,” she told Carley Shimkus on Friday. 

“We’re American citizens, and we should be proud of that country that we’re lucky enough to be in,” she continued. 

After the April clarification email and backlash from FIRE, Twin Ridge officials sent another email on May 31 acknowledging that “any student or teacher who wishes to be excused from the requirements of subsection (c)(3) of this section shall be excused,” referring to the education code that requires students and teachers to “stand and face the flag” during the pledge of allegiance. 

“I think that one of the big problems is that our students don’t really know why they’re not standing for the pledge,” Champion said, explaining that many students are simply ignoring it in favor of looking at their phones. 

“If the schools just encourage them to do it, I think that they would actually stand. After the whole kneeling for the national anthem, I think that we saw a big decline in people wanting to show respect in so many ways,” she continued. 

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