Pennsylvania: Atheists Slam Nurse for Discriminating Against Student

Pledge of Allegiance

An atheist group recently demanded that a school in Pennsylvania apologize to one its students who was denied medical care after she exercised her constitutional right not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. In a letter of complaint to Carlisle Area School District earlier this month, Monica Miller, attorney with American Humanist Association, said a student from the eighth grade contacted the organization to complain about being mistreated after she refused to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance at Wilson Middle School on April 2. After the incident, the student claimed to have been refused medical care by the school’s nurse and humiliated in public.

“Why didn’t you stand for the Pledge?” the nurse reportedly asked loudly, after which the student explained that she had the right not to participate. “Fine! Then leave! I have the right to not service you!” the student said the nurse shouted in reply.

Miller wrote that the student left the nurse’s office in tears and walked up to the administrative office, from where she wanted to call her mother. Reportedly, when the secretary tried to intervene, the nurse said the student could not contact anyone unless she had a long conversation with the student. Thereafter, a guidance counselor stepped in, showing some sympathy for the student but wrongly informing her that she would have to wait in the hallway if she did not intend to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“The student politely tried to explain that she is under no obligation to stand in the hallway as such, to which the counselor replied that it was ‘district policy,’ apparently unaware that ‘district policy’ does not trump federal law,” Miller noted.

The American Humanist Association urged the school district to ensure all of its staff members are aware that every student has the right not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance under federal law and that no staff member can persuade or punish any student who chooses not to participate.

“The actions of the nurse are indefensible, as she provides an example of the kind of overzealous, dangerous patriotism that any true patriot would loathe,” Miller wrote. “The student was left angry and scarred by this mean-spirited hostility, which is only made worse by the fact that it came from a person trusted with the health and well being of students. Moreover, the nurse’s refusal to give the child medical attention calls into question her fitness for the job.”

American Humanist Association said that the school district owed the student a public apology for having mistreated her the way it did. In response, the school district released a statement, saying it was aware of the incident and was looking into the matter.

Photo Credits: Minutemen News

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