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Parental Rights and the Pledge of Allegiance January 24, 2008

Posted by Daniel Downs in children, civil rights, education, family, law, news, parental rights, politics, youth.

(ParentalRight.org) A Palm Beach County case on parental rights reached the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday. The case started with Boynton Beach High School student Cameron Frazier, an eleventh grader who refused to say the pledge of allegiance with the rest of his class in 2005. The following year a district court judge handed down a ruling that minor children possess “autonomy” from parents to decide whether or not to say the pledge of allegiance.The district court ruling directly contradicts Florida law, which seeks to protect the rights of both students and parents by requiring parental consent for students wishing to “opt out” of saying the pledge. But Frazier, his mother, and the ACLU were intent on striking down the state law and altering the state education policy which allows parents to make crucial decisions for their children regarding attendance of certain classes, or, in this case, determining whether or not to say the pledge of allegiance. In comments praising the district court’s decision, Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida said, “It was long past due for this unconstitutional law in Florida to be struck down and the conscience and rights of young people to be respected by school officials.”

Who decides?

This reasoning raises some frightening questions. Should the rights of children really supersede the rights of parents within the public school system? Should the decisions of minors, which can be influenced by any number of factors within a school setting (not to mention varying levels of maturity), actually be considered superior to a parent’s prerogative to oversee the education of their child?

According to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, the district court’s ruling confuses the issue by targeting parents. “Certainly, students possess a constitutional right not to be coerced by government to recite the pledge,” he writes in a commentary for the Palm Beach Post. “That right, however, must not be confused with an effort to prevent parents from making a decision to have their children learn and participate in the pledge.”

Cameron Frazier and those behind him are insisting that the rights of students within public schools are independent — even superior — to the rights of parents. But Florida’s education policy strongly reflects the Supreme Court’s view in the 1979 case of Parham v. J.R., that “parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions.”

Protecting the Child-Parent Relationship

This is why the district court’s ruling in the Frazier case is so troubling. As Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum points out, “Supreme Court precedent holds that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions regarding the care, custody, and control of their children. While the Supreme Court has correctly upheld certain rights of children in public schools, these protections are targeted to protect them from coercive governmental policies, not from their parents.”

McCollum is right. A ruling honoring the rights of students while simultaneously protecting the fundamental rights of parents is what is needed from the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals. The Florida written parental permission requirement accomplishes something that Frazier’s concept of child rights cannot: initiating productive discussions between children and parents. Let’s hope that this time, the court will seek to honor a child’s perspective without trampling on parental rights.

Help ParentalRights.org reach 10,000 Petition Signers by the end of the week!

You can play a crucial role in seeking to amend the US Constitution to permanently protect the fundamental right of parents. Just over 9,000 people have signed the Parental Rights petition to date. And now, ParentalRights.org is asking you to help them reach 10,000 Petition Signers needed by the end of this week. Maybe you’ve already signed the petition on their website. If so, you are encouraged to visit their new and improved Tell a Friend page and inform your friends and family of the crucial need to protect parental rights.

Together we can fight to guard the essential role that parents play in the lives of their children.


Bill McCollum Commentary (Palm Beach Post)

United States District Court Case

ACLU press release



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