A Winters Mill High School student has been disciplined following a classroom incident — which was captured on a video that has since gone viral on social media — during which the student kicked the chair out from under another student who was not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance.
The video was posted to the student's Instagram account, and included the description: "Some people don't understand how disrespectful it is to sit during the pledge or national anthem and deserves to get there ass kicked More of y'all need (stand up) to these jackasses that sit during the pledge.if you have an issue with what I did today talk to me about it not your little buddy's behind my back. #standthef***up #america #dumbass #hedeservedmore #bitch"
The pledge is recited during morning announcements at Carroll County public schools, however, students are not required to stand during it.
Dana Falls, director of student services for the school system, said the student who kicked the chair was disciplined, though he declined to comment on the specific punishment, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The school system would not confirm the name of the individual disciplined.
"His behavior is unacceptable," Falls said.
Generally, Falls said, discipline for a behavioral incident would range based on the student's discipline history and the incident itself. In every situation, he said, the principal has discretion and is expected to use progressive discipline. The principal would start with the least intense consequence that would change the behavior, Falls said. If there was continued confrontation or negative communication after such an incident, the punishment could be increased.
"The end game would be suspension if we can't make that behavior change," Falls said.
Falls declined comment on the student's previous disciplinary record, again citing FERPA.
When contacted, Winters Mill Principal Eric King, through his secretary, deferred comment to CCPS' Central Office about the incident.
Board of Education President Devon Rothschild said that she could not comment on this specific incident, but that the school system has a zero tolerance policy on bullying.
According to the CCPS student handbook, Carroll County Public Schools will not tolerate any acts of "bullying, harassment, intimidation, discrimination, or hazing on the part of students or employees."
"According to Annotated Code of Maryland Education article 7-424, as used in this policy, 'bullying, harassment, or intimidation' means intentional conduct, including verbal, physical, or written conduct or an intentional electronic communication that creates a hostile educational environment by substantially interfering with a student's educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, or with a student's physical or psychological well-being and is: Motivated by an actual or a perceived personal characteristic including race, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ancestry, physical attributes, socioeconomic status, familial status, or physical or mental ability or disability; or, Threatening or seriously intimidating; and Occurs on school property, at a school activity or event, or on a school bus; or, Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of a school," the handbook reads.
Falls said this particular incident doesn't necessarily fall under the realm of bullying.
"In my opinion, based on what I know about the initial incident ... that would be considered an unsafe behavior or disrespect to the student," Falls said. "If it continued, it would absolutely be considered bullying."
Falls said for an incident of this nature, the school system would not involve law enforcement, though that does not stop an individual from filing charges themselves.
"In this particular case, I highly doubt that the administrator would involve law enforcement," he said.
The school system does not normally involve law enforcement when a student attacks another student unless it is a pattern of behavior or the incident causes significant bodily harm, Falls said.
Falls also said Carroll County Public Schools students are never forced to stand for the pledge in the morning, and said, from what he understands, the student who was sitting was not participating in a protest.
CCPS spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said that when administration spoke with the student who was sitting, the student did not indicate the sitting had anything to do with a protest.
However, the sitting student's statement on social media regarding the incident differs. "I was practicing my right to free speech, a right given to me by the soldiers that I do respect, unlike what he says. I simply will not stand and pledge allegiance to a country that is run by a racist, sexist, bigoted, fascist. I will not stand for a country who mistreats those who aren't white and rich. Forced patriotism is fascism, and nothing less. So I invite all to join me tomorrow, and #sitthef***down if you believe that free speech is a fundamental right of the people, and that it should be protected," he posted.
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But no matter the student's reasoning, Falls added, they have the right not to participate.
"The school cannot punish the student for not standing for the pledge," he added.
Legally, a teacher cannot force a student to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance or punish them if they chose not to, something that was decided in the 1943 Supreme Court Case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protected students from being forced to salute the flag and say the pledge in public schools.
Attempts to contact both students and their parents were unsuccessful as of Tuesday afternoon.