An eighth grader from Wilson Middle School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania was sitting in the nurse’s office last Thursday, waiting to be treated, when the Pledge of Allegiance was recited over the intercom.
The student chose not to stand for personal reasons… which apparently infuriated the nurse to the point that she refused to help the student. According to a letter sent to the District by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center,
The school nurse ordered everyone present to stand up, but the student remained seated as she typically does. She reports that subsequently, when it was her turn to be seen by the nurse, the nurse asked loudly, “Why didn’t you stand for the Pledge?” The student replied that the Pledge exercise is voluntary and that no explanation for opting out is needed. Shockingly, the nurse responded by ordering her out of the room, yelling, “Fine! Then leave! I have the right to not service you!”
The student reports that she left the nurse’s office in tears and went to the administrative offices to call her mother. A secretary then led the student to an office, but at that time the same nurse appeared again, saying, “She isn’t calling a parent until I have a long conversation with her!”
A school counselor arrived by this time and took the student to his office, where he told her that if she didn’t want to say the Pledge, she could stand in the hallway… which isn’t how it works. You can sit during the Pledge in a classroom, in a nurse’s office, or anywhere else. You don’t have to participate.
The AHA’s Monica Miller explained the seriousness of this situation:
To say that the actions of school district staff in this situation have inflicted trauma upon this child would be an understatement. She was bullied and subjected to public embarrassment for doing nothing more than harmlessly exercising her constitutional rights. 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. 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.
Among other things, the AHA is asking the District to remind students and staff that saying the Pledge (and standing for it) is optional and for them to issue a “public written apology” for how they treated this student.
They’re not calling for the firing of the nurse, as some readers might want, because that, much like filing a lawsuit, is always a last resort. You give people a chance to correct themselves. If they don’t, then you take more serious steps.
I don’t know why the student was in the nurse’s office to begin with, but for a school nurse to refuse service for something so insignificant is mind-blowing to me. How little do you have to care about kids to let something like the Pledge come between your relationship with them?
Let’s hope for a quick resolution. I don’t see how the school could do anything but apologize at this point.