More on the Texas student suspended for not standing for the Pledge

In this week’s edition of why you should never hire Jazz as your personal attorney, we follow up on what Erika had to say about this story yesterday and find a different take on the case, brought to us from Outside the Beltway. It involved a student in Texas who received an in-school suspension (ISS) for refusing to participate in the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance at school.

A short refresher:

Mason Michalec says he loves his country but just not the government.

“I’m really tired of our government taking advantage of us,” said Michalec. “I don’t agree with the NSA spying on us. And I don’t agree with any of those Internet laws.”

That’s why he’s taken a pledge of sorts to not say the Pledge of Allegiance with classmates.

“I’ve basically said it from the time I was in kindergarten to earlier this year and that’s when I decided I was done saying it.”

For the most this year, his silent protest has gone unnoticed. But on Wednesday, when a different teacher observed it for the very first time, the Needville High School sophomore ran into trouble.

“And she told me this is my classroom,” said Michalec. “This is the principal’s request. You’re going to stand. And I still didn’t stand and she said she was going to write me up.”

Michalec says the principal sentenced him to two days of in school suspension, and warned that he could face more ISS if his protest continued.

It’s a consequence the 15-year-old seems prepared to face.

In his usual lawyerly fashion, Doug Maticonis explains why this is an open and shut case, and the student is within his rights.

The legal issues here couldn’t possibly be more clear, as a matter of fact, and stretch back 71 years to a Supreme Court decision that has served as the basis for most modern First Amendment law. In that case, West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, the Supreme Court dealt with sisters who were expelled from school for refusing to comply with a state law that required all students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day. In a 6-3 opinion, the Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional and that no student could be forced to recite the Pledge:

Before we get to the particulars of Doug’s response, I’d like to pause for a moment for a private word with young Mason Michalec. Look, Mason, there’s a lot of things I don’t care for which go on on the country myself. Of course, there’s a lot more that I treasure. The things I don’t like, I work to change as best I can within the confines of the law. But through it all, I don’t lose sight of the fact that this is our country, and for all of its warts and blemishes, it’s still the best one on the planet. Try to keep hold of that, son, no matter what your parents are pushing this week.

Now, moving on to the business at hand, I suppose I’ll pause for a moment here to give a nod to Doug’s legal acumen. I have zero doubt that he’s correct about the conclusions which have been drawn by a gaggle of lawyers and a cohort of old men in robes. But this is yet another case where I have to look at the US judicial system, scratch my head, and ask.. why?

We limit the constitutional rights of children all the time, and judging by other cases which Doug and I have argued in the past, I believe he knows that as well. We don’t let children vote to elect our representatives. We limit their access to potentially dangerous substances and activities. They generally can’t even get a tattoo or have an aspirin issued to them in school without an adult’s supervision and consent. Why?

Because they are children.

While they are still in their formative years we have a communal responsibility to at least try to instill some good values in them before we send them out into the crazy, cold, cruel world. This should ideally be done at home, but in many cases that ship has long since sailed. If prevailing community standards dictate, however, that they say the Pledge and be reminded of their obligation to the nation which provides them all of this freedom while still in school, that’s hardly a case of crushing their liberty. Doug himself cites a case where the courts allowed that schools could squash their freedom of the press in a school paper. That sounds like a pretty big freedom to be taking away if you ask me. But we do it because children need all the guidance they can get before setting out on the stormy seas of life.

Once you become an adult, you have all the freedom to trash the country that you like. Join a commune. Burn the flag. Vote for Bernie Sanders. Hook up with the Occupy movement and defecate on a police car. Have a party. We’ll have to put up with it… within reason. But during your formative years, at least give us a chance to set you on a path that could lead to something productive. The courts also recognize the overarching responsibility and need for the society to protect its own future, first and foremost with molding the minds of those who are still too young to take on such responsibilities.

I think an exception could be made in the courts for allowing mandatory recital of the Pledge. But apparently I’m a relic of history.