Madison Principal Collects Names of Non-Pledging Elementary School Students

Teachers to “Rat” on Dissenting Students?

The principal of Glenn Stephens elementary school, Madison, WI, in her staff bulletin for the week of Oct. 15 instructed teachers to reveal the names of students who are not participating in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“If you have students who do not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance, please drop their names in my mailbox so I am aware of building-wide participation. Thanks,” reads the newsletter item.

The Madison School Board became the target of right-wing talk shows and websites last week, after voting to offer the national anthem in schools rather than recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. A controversial new Wisconsin law requires public schools to offer either the Pledge or the anthem every day. Many teachers and parents had objected to children being subjected to the religious Pledge. “Under God” was inserted into the Pledge in 1954 by an act of Congress.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation received a Glenn Stephens bulletin from an anonymous source. It is the Foundation’s understanding that the bulletin was distributed by Monday, Oct. 15, the day of an emergency Madison school board meeting in which the school board action was discussed and overturned. It is the Foundation’s understanding that the principal supports daily recitation of the pledge.

“Whatever the excuse or rationale for this instruction, it is a breathtaking violation of student confidentiality. Are teachers supposed to ‘rat’ on young children for sitting out the Pledge?” asked Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Foundation.

“There can be no justification for a teacher or principal collecting the names of students based on participation in the Pledge. Isn’t this reminiscent of the HUAC modus operandi, asking government employees to turn in names of ‘suspects’?”

Teachers and principals shouldn’t even be conducting anonymous headcounts, much less turning in names. Teachers should be protecting the rights of students, particularly the youngest students, Gaylor added.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) working since 1978 to preserve, protect and defend the Constitutional separation of church and state.


Freedom From Religion Foundation

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