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A Maryland school is issuing a clarification on its policy about participation in the Pledge of Allegiance after it sent an email mandating students and teachers to stand and salute during the pledge. On April 26, Twin Ridge Elementary School issued an email to its staff stating, “Per COMAR [Code of Maryland Regulations], all students and teachers are required to ‘stand and face the flag and while standing give an approved salute and recite in unison the pledge of allegiance.” An unnamed staff member at the school then shared the email with members of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), which sent a complaint letter to the school’s principal, Heather Hobbs on May 30, calling the policy “unconstitutional.” “The First Amendment protects not only your right to express yourself, but also the right to refrain from doing so. That includes refusing to salute the flag. Mandatory patriotism is no patriotism at all,” wrote FIRE Senior Program Officer Stephanie Jablonsky.

The letter stated that Maryland’s regulations also specify that “Any student or teacher who wishes to be excused from the requirements … shall be excused.” In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that forcing students to salute the flag or recite the pledge violated their First Amendment rights. The letter requested that the school respond by June 13. Jamie Aliveto, chief of schools and accountability for Frederick County Public Schools, responded to the letter, stating that the day after receiving it, Hobbs had clarified that anyone not wanting to participate in the pledge was allowed to do so. FIRE has since closed its case against the school after receiving the response.

Kathleen Champion, a Maryland mother, spoke to Fox News about the case, stating that while she understood the legalities of the issue, she did not understand the lack of patriotism in the country. “I do believe that everybody should stand for the pledge. I do understand that some people have religious beliefs that makes them have a difference from it, and that makes sense. I think that that should be the only exception that there is from it. But I really, honestly don’t understand why people have a problem standing and saying the pledge in this country,” she said.  “We’re American citizens, and we should be proud of that country that we’re lucky enough to be in.”

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