School district suspends teacher over pledge issue
A Florida school district has suspended a teacher after requiring a fourth grade Jehovah's Witness to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Tampa Tribune reports that the Hernando County School Board recently concluded an investigation.
The student, who is Jehovah's Witness and prohibited by the religion from worshiping objects, refused on religious grounds, the investigation found.
Officials said teacher Anne Daigle-McDonald twice placed the student's hand over his heart when the class recited the pledge.
The student told McDonald during the incident that Jehovah's Witnesses do not worship objects, and that he stood during the Pledge of Allegiance out of respect for the country, but was not permitted by his religion to place his hand over his heart, according to the investigation.
After the student informed McDonald of this, McDonald went to the front of the class and said, "If you don't want to say the pledge, you still have to put your hand on your heart and if you don't want to do that, you should move out of the country," according to the report.
The report also shows McDonald said something about there not being a religion that prohibits doing the pledge, according to the investigation.
The district says that McDonald violated a host of state education rules, professional conduct principles and the student's right to free speech and freedom of religion. Several other students in the class corroborated the allegations, according to the investigation.
McDonald was removed from student contact, and placed on alternative assignment on Sept. 12.
While speaking to administrators at the school on that date, McDonald said she thought the religion applied only to holidays, but said she did not attempt to contact the student's parents for clarification, according to the report.
The investigation showed that she also said she didn't think it was good practice to regularly place hands on students, and that she feels strongly as a citizen of the United States that one should show respect to the flag.
Superintendent Lori Romano ordered McDonald be suspended five days without pay, reported the incident to Florida Department of Education and ordered McDonald provide proof of completion of diversity training.
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