Fla. Mom Says 6-Year-Old Son Was Reprimanded for Taking a Knee During Pledge of Allegiance

Eugenia McDowell (ABC News screenshot)
Eugenia McDowell (ABC News screenshot)

An outraged Florida mother says that her 6-year-old son was publicly admonished for deciding to take a knee Monday during the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance, and now she is calling into question the way in which the school handled the incident.


According to ABC News, Eugenia McDowell’s precocious little boy decided to kneel down during the recital of the pledge at Wiregrass Elementary School following a weekend of protests across the NFL during which many athletes were seen doing the same in peaceful protest of black oppression across the nation.

McDowell told the network that she didn’t know that her son was going to kneel, and was informed of what happened in a text message from the boy’s teacher. She now feels that her son’s voice and right to free speech were snuffed out.

According to the report, the text message from the teacher read, “I knew where he had seen it [going down on one knee], but I did tell him that in the classroom, we are learning what it means to be a good citizen, we’re learning about respecting the United States of America and our country symbols and showing loyalty and patriotism and that we stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.”

McDowell said based on what her son said, the teacher told him to stand up and to stop it.

However, Pasco County School District spokesperson Linda Cobbe defended the teacher’s stance, saying that school policy notes that students must have a written letter from a parent (for some reason) informing the school that the student does not recite the pledge, in accordance with Florida state law.

“Our policy—and state law, for that matter—requires that a parent submit a request in writing that their student be exempted from participating in the pledge,” Cobbe told ABC News.


Of course, Florida would have a state law like that.

Anyway, McDowell has not submitted the required letter to the school, but if she had, Cobbe said, the incident would have been handled differently. McDowell said that she was not aware of the policy and does not plan to send in a letter either way.


McDowell said that she reached out to the school requesting a meeting with her son’s teacher and the principal to discuss the issue further.

“In my email, I wrote we may have to consider changing his classroom. I wasn’t ready to make that decision until a discussion with them [the school principal and teacher] took place,” McDowell said. “I wanted an apology to my son in the same manner that she called him out for kneeling. I also wanted to know if she would be remorseful. If she demonstrated that, then I would have been OK with him remaining in her class.”


However, by Wednesday, she said, she learned that her son had already been assigned to a new teacher. Still, McDowell said, she intends to have a conversation with the school principal in hopes of starting a more sweeping conversation about children’s right to express themselves.

“We are no longer going be silenced, our voices will be heard, and our little black boys that sit in classrooms today, not just my son but every other child that looks like him, they are not going to be silenced,” McDowell said.


Read more at ABC News.


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Now I’m confused.

Didn’t the Supreme Court issue a ruling, oh about 70 years ago, that the 1st Amendment protected students from being forced to salute the flag or recite the pledge of allegiance (without any mention of an excuse note from a parent or guardian)?

I understand that Florida has issued their own law requiring a letter from a parent or guardian excusing the student. I also understand the “states rights” standpoint, but given that this is a national flag/pledge of allegiance, not a state flag/pledge, shouldn’t the (Supreme) national court ruling take precedence?