Teacher removed over message scolding students who didn't stand for Pledge

Message written on classroom board at First Coast High School

A First Coast High School teacher is out of the classroom and under investigation after writing a strongly worded message on a whiteboard about students not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A First Coast High School teacher has been removed pending the outcome of a review into a message on his classroom board scolding students who did not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem, according to a Duval County school district spokesperson.

The spokesperson said Duval County Public Schools became aware Wednesday afternoon of the message, which included historical references including slavery, the right for women to vote and the election of a black president. The spokesperson said the message also referenced the fact that the superintendent and principal are black.

"It was implied in the statement that students who fail to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance lack maturity," the spokesperson said in a statement. "The statements made by the educator are not consistent with state statute or school board policy."

Florida law permits students to be excused from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and standing if the student’s parent or legal guardian files a written request with the school principal.

The Code of Student Conduct also states:

"Pursuant to Florida Statutes, students have the right not to participate in reciting the pledge. Upon written request by his or her parent, a student must be excused from reciting the pledge, including standing and placing the right hand over his or her heart."

While the Office of Professional Standards reviews the matter and any appropriate action, the teacher has been removed from the classroom pending the outcome of the review.   

“I believe classrooms provide the perfect place to have insightful and thought-provoking discussions about patriotic expressions and civil liberty,” said First Coast High Principal Justin Fluent, who also sent a message to students' families. “However, this must be done in a productive and respectful way, and in accordance with law and school board policy.”

The message at the school on Jacksonville's Northside comes on the first week of school.

"I felt kind of disrespected I should say," said Renard Muff, a student at First Coast High.

Photos being spread on social media show the handwritten note on the whiteboard is addressed to "homeroom" and signed by "Mr. G." The message reads: 

THINK: We had about a half million Americans die in our Civil War, which was largely to get rid of slavery. There are no longer separate water fountains and bathrooms in Jacksonville for “white” and “colored,” as Mr. Goodman remembers from the 1960’s. We had an amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing women the right to vote. We have had a Black president, the superintendent of Duval Schools is a Black woman. Mr. Fluent, our principal, replaced a Black man, Mr. Simmons, who is now a D.C.P.S. administrator.

MY POINT? You are all extremely lucky to be living in the U.S.A. If you refuse to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance or our National Anthem, are you revealing maturity and wisdom? Actually, you are displaying the opposite. (As some pampered arrogant celebrities and athletes tend to do.)"

A mother told News4Jax that she was shocked and upset Wednesday when her daughter, who saw the message, sent her a photo of it.

"I think that he was out of bounds and it was inappropriate. He should not have been voicing his opinion on students," said the parent, who wished to remain anonymous. "His opinion is his opinion and he is entitled to his opinion, but the classroom, especially a marine biology class, is not the place for that."

She said she believes the worst part is underlined. 

“After naming all of these things, all of the accomplishments of certain black people, at the end, he writes and underlines, we should be extremely lucky. Luck has nothing to do with it," the mother said. "At this point, as an individual, you are showing me who you are. So do I really feel like my daughter is going to have a fair shot of making a great grade? Are you going to take out your frustrations on her because she’s a black kid and she may or may not stand up for the flag? I don’t want him teaching my daughter.”

She added that if the teacher is not permanently removed, she will try to get her daughter out of his class.

Other parents told News4Jax off-camera that they agree with the teacher's opinion and feel he shouldn't be reprimanded. 

About the Authors:

Corley Peel is a Texas native and Texas Tech graduate who covered big stories in Joplin, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jacksonville, Florida before returning to the Lone Star State. When not reporting, Corley enjoys hot yoga, Tech Football, and finding the best tacos in town.