A Florida teacher forced her fourth grade student to pledge allegiance to the flag after the boy refused to do so because he’s a Jehovah’s Witness. The student reminded the teacher that his religion doesn’t allow him to worship objects.
Anne Daigle-McDonald has been suspended without pay after grabbing a student’s wrist, placing it over his heart, and forcing him near the flag. He did stand up out of respect for his country, but he didn’t want to put his hand over his heart.
“You are an American, and you are supposed to salute the flag,” Daigle-McDonald reportedly said, according to a statement the boy gave the Explorer K-8 school.
The first incident happened on Sept. 11, the 12-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The next day, Daigle-McDonald noticed that the boy hadn’t changed his habits. That’s when she decided to turn the incident into a lesson for all her young students.
She yanked the boy’s hand over his heart and then told the entire class, “In my classroom, everyone will do the pledge; no religion says that you can’t do the pledge.”
She continued, “If you don’t want to say the pledge, you still have to put your hand on your heart and if you don’t want to do that, you should move out of the country.”
After hearing about the teacher’s actions, the Hernando County School Board interviewed several of the boy’s classmates, who corroborated his story.
Officials at the school district recently concluded that the teacher had overstepped her bounds by taking away the student’s right to free speech and freedom of religion, which are both protected by the First Amendment. On top of that, Daigle-McDonald was accused of violating professional conduct protocol and state education rules.
“She touched a child and that is no-no,” grandparent Donna Walker told WTSP. “She should not be teaching here. She should not be teaching children.”
Daigle-McDonald was in fact removed from student contact and given an alternative school job on Sept. 12. She was also suspended for five days without pay and ordered to undergo diversity training.
During the investigation, the teacher defended herself by saying that the boy’s mother had never explained that she didn’t want her child to say the pledge.