Punished for not reciting Mexican pledge of allegiance?

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GloriaInTX's picture
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Punished for not reciting Mexican pledge of allegiance?

Should this student have been punished for refusing to recite the Mexican pledge of allegience? Just for reference McAllen, TX where this occurred is a border town right across the Mexican border.

A Texas high school student has filed a federal lawsuit against her school and her teachers after she was punished for refusing to salute and recite the Mexican pledge of allegiance.

The Thomas More Law Center filed the suit on behalf of Brenda Brinsdon alleging the McAllen Independent School District violated the 15-year-old girl?s constitutional rights when she was forced to recite the Mexican pledge and sing the Mexican national anthem.

Brinsdon, who is the daughter of a Mexican immigrant and an American father, refused. She believed it was un-American to pledge a loyalty oath to another country.

Ironically, the school district has a policy that prohibits a school from compelling students to recite the American Pledge of Allegiance.

The district also has a written policy that excuses students from reciting text from the Declaration of Independence if the student ?as determined by the district, has a conscientious objection to the recitation.?

?There is a sad trend in public schools across our nation to undermine American patriotism,? said Richard Thompson president of the Thomas More Law Center. ?But it?s encouraging to see students like Brenda stand up for America despite pressure from school officials.?

The TMLC told Fox News the district ignored its own rules when Brinsdon refused to recite the pledge of a foreign country.

What?s most troubling is the different treatment for someone wanting to opt out of reciting the American Pledge of Allegiance compared to someone as a matter of conscience wants to opt out of reciting the Mexican pledge,? spokesman Erin Mersino told Fox News.

A spokesman for the McAllen Independent School District told Fox News they had not seen a copy of the lawsuit.

The recitation of the Mexican pledge and the singing of the Mexican national anthem was part of a 2011 Spanish class assignment at Achieve Early College High School. The teacher, Reyna Santos, required all her students to participate in the lesson.

When Brinsdon refused to back down ? she was punished, the lawsuit alleges. She was given an alternative assignment on the Independence of Mexico. The teacher gave her a failing grade ? and then required the student to sit in class over a period of several days to listen to other students recite the Mexican flag.

The lawsuit states Brinsdon offered to recite the American pledge in Spanish but the teacher refused her request.
?It?s astonishing that this Texas school would deny Brenda her right of conscience and free speech not to pledge allegiance to a foreign country,? said Thompson. ?Too many Americans ? including those of Mexican descent ? have suffered and died protecting our nation.?

And while she is fluent in Spanish and English and is proud of her Mexican heritage, Brinsdon is a ?true-blooded American,? Mersino added.

Mersino said it was especially troubling to watch video of students in the class standing up, extending their arms straight out, palms down and reciting the pledge of a foreign country.

?It?s disturbing ? it truly was troubling,? she said.

American Student Punished for Refusing to Recite Mexican Pledge | FOX News & Commentary: Todd Starnes

Text of Lawsuit
http://www.thomasmore.org/sites/default/files/files/Brinsdon%20v%20McAllen%20ISD%20Complaint%20022713.pdf

Joined: 03/14/09
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I think forcing anyone to recite any pledge of allegiance is backwards, nationalist, and dictatorial. Good for her.

Joined: 04/12/03
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Ironically, the school district has a policy that prohibits a school from compelling students to recite the American Pledge of Allegiance.

No ****. Nothing like having a "district policy" that aligns with a SCOTUS ruling.

Yeah, TX has its own pledge to the TX flag. XH went rounds with his kids' school because they school tried to tell him it was mandatory and they had to say it.

Thus students can't be compelled to recite any pledge to any flag. Stupid move on the teacher's/school's part.

ftmom's picture
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Except if you read the article, she didnt have to recite it. She was given an alternative assignment, which she failed and is now upset about it. Not sure what the school did wrong here?

Alissa_Sal's picture
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"ftmom" wrote:

Except if you read the article, she didnt have to recite it. She was given an alternative assignment, which she failed and is now upset about it. Not sure what the school did wrong here?

I picked up on that too. I also like how the the article says "and then required the student to sit in class over a period of several days to listen to other students recite the Mexican flag" like having to sit and listen was punishment or something. I know when DH assigns oral presentations, all of the kids are expected to sit and listen to each other. What a violation of their civil liberties! Wink

Danifo's picture
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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

I picked up on that too. I also like how the the article says "and then required the student to sit in class over a period of several days to listen to other students recite the Mexican flag" like having to sit and listen was punishment or something. I know when DH assigns oral presentations, all of the kids are expected to sit and listen to each other. What a violation of their civil liberties! Wink

I don't know. Listening to 20+ kids reciting the same thing individually sounds horrible. I am also curious about the quality of her alternate assignment and if the work/effort was equal to what she was objecting to. Unless I'm greatly mistaken, a project on Mexican independance sounds like more work than reciting a pledge of allegiange.

I don't blame her for refusing to say it or being upset at watching all her classmates doing it.

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"ftmom" wrote:

Except if you read the article, she didnt have to recite it. She was given an alternative assignment, which she failed and is now upset about it. Not sure what the school did wrong here?

I did read the article but I took this: When Brinsdon refused to back down – she was punished, the lawsuit alleges. She was given an alternative assignment on the Independence of Mexico. The teacher gave her a failing grade – and then required the student to sit in class over a period of several days to listen to other students recite the Mexican flag.
to mean it wasn't really a good faith effort to accommodate. As a parent, I wouldn't accept an alternate assignment which included "watch/listen to everyone else do it."

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"ftmom" wrote:

Except if you read the article, she didnt have to recite it. She was given an alternative assignment, which she failed and is now upset about it. Not sure what the school did wrong here?

Plaintiff B.B. received a 13 out of 100 on the alternative essay assignment Defendant Santos made her complete. A “13” represented a failing grade. Neither Defendant Santos nor Cavazos explained why Plaintiff B.B. received a failing grade on the alternative assignment.

Prior to Defendant Santos giving Plaintiff B.B. a failing grade on the alternative essay assignment, Plaintif f B.B. had been performing above average on her assignments in Intermediate Spanish class. Plaintiff B.B. is fluent in both Spanish and English.

Both the alternative essay assignment and its grading were in retaliation of Plaintiff B.B. exercising her constitutional right not
to be forced to pledge her loyalty to Mexico.

I would be upset too if I received a failing grade but those who gave me the failing grade couldn't explain why.

ftmom's picture
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I honestly think this whole lawsuit hinges on that alternate assignment. Should she have failed it? Was it something she just dashed off in anger and it was a crap assignment and got a crap grade, or did she put some effort in and do a good job and still failed? Yes. it says that they didnt explain the grade, but I also found it curious that the law suit, that laid everything out in a pretty detailed manner, with dates etc, never stated that she ASKED why she failed. It doesnt say that they COULDNT explain the grade.

ftmom's picture
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I am confused as to why the teacher and the principal are named in the lawsuit. The text of the suit plainly stipulates that they were following their training and guidelines of the district, so why are they being sued, along with the district? Is this common practice to sue the employee for following their employers policies?

Please correct me if I have read something wrong, I could count the number of law suits I have read on one hand, so maybe I missed something?

ftmom's picture
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"Danifo" wrote:

I don't know. Listening to 20+ kids reciting the same thing individually sounds horrible. I am also curious about the quality of her alternate assignment and if the work/effort was equal to what she was objecting to. Unless I'm greatly mistaken, a project on Mexican independance sounds like more work than reciting a pledge of allegiange.

I don't blame her for refusing to say it or being upset at watching all her classmates doing it.

I think the teacher was just following policy. The assignment was to recite it orally, which needed to be done in class time, and all students needed to be in class, just because it is class time. I dont think this was intended as a punishment. All the other kids had to sit through it too. When I go to a sporting event with an American team, I dont think of it as a punishment to have to listen to the American national anthem. Though I admit this is a sucky assignment all around and would be a pain to sit through, I dont think that is specific to this girl.

And it was a HALF A PAGE 'essay'! That is 125 words! Hardly some huge difficult PROJECT. Sure maybe for her, who is fluent in spanish, doing the pledge would have been easier, but that doesnt mean the pledge was an easy project. For a student who is not fluent, I would think that pronouncing everything correctly, memorizing it etc, would be very difficult. Depending on the resources available this project may have been right on par with that. I would personally find the writing project easier.

Alissa_Sal's picture
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"Danifo" wrote:

I don't know. Listening to 20+ kids reciting the same thing individually sounds horrible. I am also curious about the quality of her alternate assignment and if the work/effort was equal to what she was objecting to. Unless I'm greatly mistaken, a project on Mexican independance sounds like more work than reciting a pledge of allegiange.

I don't blame her for refusing to say it or being upset at watching all her classmates doing it.

I can remember an assignment in French class when I was in high school where we had to get up and say a paragraph in French in front of the class. It went something like "Hi, my name is Alissa, and I'm 15 years old. I live in the United States. I have studied French for 2 years...." Other than names and slight variations in ages, it was 30 kids all saying the same thing, and we all had to sit there while everyone else went. I can also remember having to do the same conversations with a partner in front of the class. My impression is that's pretty common in a language class, which is why I think it's silly to point that out as if it were done to punish her.

I agree that the quality of her work on the alternate assignment is the important piece. If she did a good job and the teacher still failed her out of spite, then the teacher was absolutely wrong. If she did a poor job and the teacher failed her, then I see the student as being in the wrong. I think she had a right to ask for an alternate assignment and a right to be graded fairly on it, but not a right to an automatic good grade. I wonder if they will try to prove that the paper was of passing quality in court.

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"ftmom" wrote:

I am confused as to why the teacher and the principal are named in the lawsuit. The text of the suit plainly stipulates that they were following their training and guidelines of the district, so why are they being sued, along with the district? Is this common practice to sue the employee for following their employers policies?

Please correct me if I have read something wrong, I could count the number of law suits I have read on one hand, so maybe I missed something?

The School District has the policy and practice of requiring its teachers to teach about foreign culture, and leaves unfettered discretion to its teachers to interpret and apply its directives.

Bolding mine. The district has a policy but leaves it up to the teachers to apply said policy.

In fact, it would seem the "alternate assignment" goes against district policy when it comes to the recitation of other documents:

However the School District has a written policy upon which a student can be excused from reciting text from the Declaration of Independence if the student ?as determined by the District, has a conscientious objection to the recitation.? The written policy does not mandate the excused student write a lengthy essay as a substitution for the recitation of the text rich in American history and ideals.

Taking that together, if she had refused to recite the Declaration of Independence due to a conscientious objection she would not be required to complete a written assignment. Refusing to cite the Mexican pledge should have been dealt with in a similar manner.

This goes well beyond where it should have:

On or about the morning of October 18, 2011, Defendant Cavazos called Plaintiff B.B. into the school office. Defendant explained that since Plaintiff B.B.?s decision not to pledge her allegiance to Mexico garnered media attention, Plaintiff B.B. would be removed from Defendant Santos? Intermediate class until the attention subsided, or words to that effect.

Plaintiff B.B. was assigned to stay in the school office during what would have regularly been Defendant Santos? Intermediate Spanish class. Plaintiff B.B. desired to return to the Spanish class, but the School District and Defendants Santos and Cavazos disallowed this. Defendants also neglected to ever inform William Brinsdon, Plaintiff B.B.?s father.

Plaintiff B.B.?s school counselor informed Plaintiff B.B. that her removal from Defendant Santos? Intermediate Spanish class would be permanent. When Plaintiff B.B. asked why, the school counselor told Plaintiff B.B. that she would need to ask Defendant Cavazos.

Plaintiff B.B. then received an ?F,? a failing grade, on her report card in Defendant Santos? class, when Plaintiff B.B. had not been allowed to attend the course.

ftmom's picture
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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Bolding mine. The district has a policy but leaves it up to the teachers to apply said policy.

In fact, it would seem the "alternate assignment" goes against district policy when it comes to the recitation of other documents:

Taking that together, if she had refused to recite the Declaration of Independence due to a conscientious objection she would not be required to complete a written assignment. Refusing to cite the Mexican pledge should have been dealt with in a similar manner.

This goes well beyond where it should have:

This was not just a recitation of the declaration of independence though. It was a class project. How was the teacher supposed to give her a grade, if there was no project done? The policy does not say this can not be done. I think it has a lot to do with the circumstance of the recitation.

I do agree that they went overboard after all this went to the media, but that was in response to the media attention, not directly due to her refusing to recite the pledge.

ftmom's picture
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45. Teachers and administrators of the School District, including Defendants Santos and Cavazos, were directed and trained pursuant to the School District’s policy which allows District staff to use any instructional resource that may represent an ethnic or cultural group.
46. Defendant Santos executed School District policy and her School District bestowed training when she compelled Plaintiff B.B. and the Intermediate Spanish class at the Achieve Early College High School to pledge its allegiance to Mexico.
47. Defendant Cavazos executed School District policy and her School District bestowed training when she encouraged Plaintiff B.B. to pledge her allegiance to Mexico, as the assignment to do so was part of the curriculum.

As far as I can tell, even if this case is successful, the lawsuit clearly states that the teacher and principal were working within the guidelines they were given. I would say this is the fault of the training they were given, and they are not at fault.

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"ftmom" wrote:

This was not just a recitation of the declaration of independence though. It was a class project. How was the teacher supposed to give her a grade, if there was no project done? The policy does not say this can not be done. I think it has a lot to do with the circumstance of the recitation.

I do agree that they went overboard after all this went to the media, but that was in response to the media attention, not directly due to her refusing to recite the pledge.

The class project was to recite the Mexican pledge and sing the Mexican national antherm. That's it. All they needed to do was excuse her from the assignment. Anyway, isn't there a better alternate assignment? Recite a sonnet from Shakespeare? An alternate assignment shouldn't be a paper on Mexican Independence - that should already be part of the curriculum If it is more work, how is that not punishment?

I've had JW students who do not say the pledge to the US flag or participate in singing the Nat'l Anthem. If this student refused based on religious grounds, the teacher and school would have handled it a totally different way. Pledging to any flag for any reason would be against the JW relgious beliefs, no? Since all students have the right to opt out of the US pledge, this shouldn't be any different. I'm actually surprised more students and parents didn't object.

IMO, their goal was to "win." The teacher didn't back down even though she was wrong.

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"ftmom" wrote:

As far as I can tell, even if this case is successful, the lawsuit clearly states that the teacher and principal were working within the guidelines they were given. I would say this is the fault of the training they were given, and they are not at fault.

Ignorance is no excuse. CA Ed. says schools must do something patriotic daily and the pledge will satisfy that requirement. It's my job to know I cannot mandate that students say it. If I ever went down that road, it would be my fault.

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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

The class project was to recite the Mexican pledge and sing the Mexican national antherm. That's it. All they needed to do was excuse her from the assignment. Anyway, isn't there a better alternate assignment? Recite a sonnet from Shakespeare? An alternate assignment shouldn't be a paper on Mexican Independence - that should already be part of the curriculum If it is more work, how is that not punishment?

I've had JW students who do not say the pledge to the US flag or participate in singing the Nat'l Anthem. If this student refused based on religious grounds, the teacher and school would have handled it a totally different way. Pledging to any flag for any reason would be against the JW relgious beliefs, no? Since all students have the right to opt out of the US pledge, this shouldn't be any different. I'm actually surprised more students and parents didn't object.

IMO, their goal was to "win." The teacher didn't back down even though she was wrong.

First bolded, as I stated before, this is not necessarily more work. Different? Yes. Not a good alternative due to being different? Probably. But harder? I would find it easier.

To the second bolded, How so? They gave her an alternative assignment. I would assume that it may have gone slightly differently if it had been in her record that she had a religious objection (ie, the principal wouldnt have been involved, and the alternative assignment would have been ready to go), but I dont see how the end result would have been different.

ftmom's picture
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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Ignorance is no excuse. CA Ed. says schools must do something patriotic daily and the pledge will satisfy that requirement. It's my job to know I cannot mandate that students say it. If I ever went down that road, it would be my fault.

Yes, but forcing students to say it would be against your training. If you are told that you can use ANY material you see fit to teach your class, and those materials are approved by the principal, and even the district (as I assume they were by the way the principal and district maintained these were reasonable materials) then I dont see how you could be found at fault for using those materials.

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"ftmom" wrote:

Yes, but forcing students to say it would be against your training. If you are told that you can use ANY material you see fit to teach your class, and those materials are approved by the principal, and even the district (as I assume they were by the way the principal and district maintained these were reasonable materials) then I dont see how you could be found at fault for using those materials.

It's not the material; it's how it was used. Students are exposed to many ideas throughout their public education. For example, they learn about different religions. Thus there are several lessons on various beliefs. It would be totally inappropriate for me to use my position to indoctrinate students. Same with politics and gun control. Just because I have permission to use any material I deem appropriate does not mean I can use it in an inappropriate manner.

I would support my children to the fullest if either of them opted out of saying the pledge - to the US flag, a state flag, or to "practice" their second language. And I too would be all over the teacher for giving her a failing grade on her report card because she wasn't allowed to return to the class.

BTW, knowing the SCOTUS rulings relevant to what I teach isn't a part of my training. It's a part of my duty to respect the rights of students and to know what my rights as a teacher are.

Alissa_Sal's picture
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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

The class project was to recite the Mexican pledge and sing the Mexican national antherm. That's it. All they needed to do was excuse her from the assignment. Anyway, isn't there a better alternate assignment? Recite a sonnet from Shakespeare? An alternate assignment shouldn't be a paper on Mexican Independence - that should already be part of the curriculum If it is more work, how is that not punishment?

I've had JW students who do not say the pledge to the US flag or participate in singing the Nat'l Anthem. If this student refused based on religious grounds, the teacher and school would have handled it a totally different way. Pledging to any flag for any reason would be against the JW relgious beliefs, no? Since all students have the right to opt out of the US pledge, this shouldn't be any different. I'm actually surprised more students and parents didn't object.

IMO, their goal was to "win." The teacher didn't back down even though she was wrong.

Saying the pledge (to the US flag) isn't typically done for a grade. This assignment was. I don't know how the teacher is expected to give a grade on an assignment that the student didn't do if they aren't allowed to assign an alternate assignment. Just excuse her from the assignment? Okay, but then what grade does the teacher give to calculate the over all grade?

I guess I don't see a half page paper as being a hugely inappropriate assignment to replace standing up and doing a short oral presentation. As a kid, given my druthers between the two, I would have picked the paper every time. I realize not everyone feels that way, but short paper for short speech seems pretty fair to me. Especially if they already covered Mexican Independence in class - she wouldn't even have to do any extra research!

Again, if she did a good job on the paper and the teacher failed her anyway just for spite, then the teacher was wrong and the student should win the lawsuit. If the student did a crappy job and thus got a crappy grade, then I think that's fair.

I assume that if any of the other kids had a religious reason to not say the Mexican pledge, they also would have been given the alternative assignment. What makes you think that they wouldn't?

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Saying the pledge (to the US flag) isn't typically done for a grade. This assignment was. I don't know how the teacher is expected to give a grade on an assignment that the student didn't do if they aren't allowed to assign an alternate assignment. Just excuse her from the assignment? Okay, but then what grade does the teacher give to calculate the over all grade?

I guess I don't see a half page paper as being a hugely inappropriate assignment to replace standing up and doing a short oral presentation. As a kid, given my druthers between the two, I would have picked the paper every time. I realize not everyone feels that way, but short paper for short speech seems pretty fair to me. Especially if they already covered Mexican Independence in class - she wouldn't even have to do any extra research!

Again, if she did a good job on the paper and the teacher failed her anyway just for spite, then the teacher was wrong and the student should win the lawsuit. If the student did a crappy job and thus got a crappy grade, then I think that's fair.

I assume that if any of the other kids had a religious reason to not say the Mexican pledge, they also would have been given the alternative assignment. What makes you think that they wouldn't?

Well, the student did offer to sing and recite the US national anthem & pledge in Spanish but the teacher refused. That would have been more on par with the original assignment.

Teachers often excuse students from assignments for a variety of reasons. It's not that hard to calculate a grade based on 19 scores instead of 20.

Alissa_Sal's picture
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Is it typically up to the students to define what their own assignments, alternative or otherwise, will be? Imagine if every kid decides that they didn't like any given assignment AND expected to be able to decide what they would do instead. I think it's reasonable that the teacher be allowed to be the one to assign the assignments.

Eta: I didn't read anywhere that she had a moral problem with writing the paper, only that she received a poor grade for it. I assume this wouldn't be a debate if she had gotten an A. Therefore, I don't think the content of the alternative assignment is the actual problem. She just didnt like her grade on it. I can only speculate about whether the grade was fair, so I can't speak to that piece of it. Certainly, she should have been graded fairly if she was not.

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Is it typically up to the students to define what their own assignments, alternative or otherwise, will be? Imagine if every kid decides that they didn't like any given assignment AND expected to be able to decide what they would do instead. I think it's reasonable that the teacher be allowed to be the one to assign the assignments.

Eta: I didn't read anywhere that she had a moral problem with writing the paper, only that she received a poor grade for it. I assume this wouldn't be a debate if she had gotten an A. Therefore, I don't think the content of the alternative assignment is the actual problem. She just didnt like her grade on it. I can only speculate about whether the grade was fair, so I can't speak to that piece of it. Certainly, she should have been graded fairly if she was not.

Actually, yes in some cases. There are supplemental reading materials and when parents object, they are usually the ones who offer the alternative. For example, if I didn't want my daughter reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest I would go to the teacher and offer a similar book that I didn't object to. When the class was reading or discussing the novel, DD would be in the library or another class working independently. When DD1's biology class was going to be dissecting frogs for the upcoming unit, she downloaded an app on the ipad and took it to her teacher explaining her objections to the dissections and what her intended alternate assignment was. No problems there.

When something is supplemental (and no one has denied this wasn't a chapter in their Spanish book or part of a district-adopted curriculum), the parents have every right to opt their child out of it.

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Is it typically up to the students to define what their own assignments, alternative or otherwise, will be? Imagine if every kid decides that they didn't like any given assignment AND expected to be able to decide what they would do instead. I think it's reasonable that the teacher be allowed to be the one to assign the assignments.

Eta: I didn't read anywhere that she had a moral problem with writing the paper, only that she received a poor grade for it. I assume this wouldn't be a debate if she had gotten an A. Therefore, I don't think the content of the alternative assignment is the actual problem. She just didnt like her grade on it. I can only speculate about whether the grade was fair, so I can't speak to that piece of it. Certainly, she should have been graded fairly if she was not.

Actually, yes in some cases. There are supplemental reading materials and when parents object, they are usually the ones who offer the alternative. For example, if I didn't want my daughter reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest I would go to the teacher and offer a similar book that I didn't object to. When the class was reading or discussing the novel, DD would be in the library or another class working independently. When DD1's biology class was going to be dissecting frogs for the upcoming unit, she downloaded an app on the ipad and took it to her teacher explaining her objections to the dissections and what her intended alternate assignment was. No problems there.

When something is supplemental (and no one has denied this wasn't a chapter in their Spanish book or part of a district-adopted curriculum), the parents have every right to opt their child out of it.

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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Actually, yes in some cases. There are supplemental reading materials and when parents object, they are usually the ones who offer the alternative. For example, if I didn't want my daughter reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest I would go to the teacher and offer a similar book that I didn't object to. When the class was reading or discussing the novel, DD would be in the library or another class working independently. When DD1's biology class was going to be dissecting frogs for the upcoming unit, she downloaded an app on the ipad and took it to her teacher explaining her objections to the dissections and what her intended alternate assignment was. No problems there.

When something is supplemental (and no one has denied this wasn't a chapter in their Spanish book or part of a district-adopted curriculum), the parents have every right to opt their child out of it.

Okay but given that you admit that this wasn't supplemental, I'm not sure what that has to do with this.

Not that he's an expert in this, but I asked DH what he does if a kid or their family has a problem with the books or readings he assigns. He said that typically he gives them a couple of other options to choose from, but that it is usually him defining those options because he is looking to assign something that studies the same themes, or the same writing technique, or whatever it is that he's focusing on with the assignment. This is speculation, but I wonder if they were studying Mexican Independence and Nationalism in class, and that's why the assignments were on the pledge or a paper about that theme. That would make sense for why the student wasn't given the option to recite the US pledge; it wouldn't have anything to do with Mexican Independence.

Anyway, like I said before, it sounds to me like her problem wasn't with the paper, but with the grade she received on it.

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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Actually, yes in some cases. There are supplemental reading materials and when parents object, they are usually the ones who offer the alternative. For example, if I didn't want my daughter reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest I would go to the teacher and offer a similar book that I didn't object to. When the class was reading or discussing the novel, DD would be in the library or another class working independently. When DD1's biology class was going to be dissecting frogs for the upcoming unit, she downloaded an app on the ipad and took it to her teacher explaining her objections to the dissections and what her intended alternate assignment was. No problems there.

When something is supplemental (and no one has denied this wasn't a chapter in their Spanish book or part of a district-adopted curriculum), the parents have every right to opt their child out of it.

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Okay but given that you admit that this wasn't supplemental, I'm not sure what that has to do with this.

Not that he's an expert in this, but I asked DH what he does if a kid or their family has a problem with the books or readings he assigns. He said that typically he gives them a couple of other options to choose from, but that it is usually him defining those options because he is looking to assign something that studies the same themes, or the same writing technique, or whatever it is that he's focusing on with the assignment. This is speculation, but I wonder if they were studying Mexican Independence and Nationalism in class, and that's why the assignments were on the pledge or a paper about that theme. That would make sense for why the student wasn't given the option to recite the US pledge; it wouldn't have anything to do with Mexican Independence.

Anyway, like I said before, it sounds to me like her problem wasn't with the paper, but with the grade she received on it.

No, this absolutely was supplemental.

There are many issues with the whole thing. I see your DH said that there are options with the same themes or writing technique yet writing a paper in lieu of an oral assignment is neither of those.

Yes, one of the issues was her grade. No one seems to be able to justify the grade nor the fact that she wasn't allowed to return to the class for the entire semester thus receiving a failing grade for the course.

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Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

No, this absolutely was supplemental.

There are many issues with the whole thing. I see your DH said that there are options with the same themes or writing technique yet writing a paper in lieu of an oral assignment is neither of those.

Yes, one of the issues was her grade. No one seems to be able to justify the grade nor the fact that she wasn't allowed to return to the class for the entire semester thus receiving a failing grade for the course.

How is this supplemental? Maybe I'm not using the word correctly, but I always think of supplemental work as being something extra that a student does that is outside of the core assignments provided by the teacher. If this assignment was required, how can it also be supplemental?

My point was, maybe the "theme" they were studying was Mexican Independence, which is why the paper would fall into the theme, but reciting the US pledge in Spanish would not. I admit that's pure speculation, but it makes sense to me, given the assignments. Also, the other point I was making is that my DH doesn't just allow students to change any assignment that they dislike or disagree with to anything else that they choose. He works with them as best he can, but he doesn't just let them do whatever they want. I can't even imagine running a classroom that way.

I agree that if she was not graded fairly, that is absolutely wrong and needs to be addressed. I just don't agree that having to write a half page paper instead of giving a short presentation is some sort of egregious violation of her rights.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

How is this supplemental? Maybe I'm not using the word correctly, but I always think of supplemental work as being something extra that a student does that is outside of the core assignments provided by the teacher. If this assignment was required, how can it also be supplemental?

My point was, maybe the "theme" they were studying was Mexican Independence, which is why the paper would fall into the theme, but reciting the US pledge in Spanish would not. I admit that's pure speculation, but it makes sense to me, given the assignments. Also, the other point I was making is that my DH doesn't just allow students to change any assignment that they dislike or disagree with to anything else that they choose. He works with them as best he can, but he doesn't just let them do whatever they want. I can't even imagine running a classroom that way.

I agree that if she was not graded fairly, that is absolutely wrong and needs to be addressed. I just don't agree that having to write a half page paper instead of giving a short presentation is some sort of egregious violation of her rights.

Supplemental means it's in addition to the district-adopted materials. For example, our textbooks came with all sorts of resourses including videos. If I showed one of those video segments, students wouldn't be excused from watching it. I also show videos from the History Channel or PBS and 12 Angry Men and Glory (edited version). Because I am using materials to supplement my teaching, if parents wanted to, they could opt their children out of seeing the movies or video series. That said, even though the National Anthem is in the textbook doesn't mean I can require students to sing it. (Likewise the district in the OP specifically exempts students from having to recite the Dec of Independence.)

In the case in the OP it's already been established that the teacher/principal used their "training" to determine what materials they would use to supplement the district provided materials. The students were not just reciting the pledge; they were actually pledging allegience to the Mexican flag complete with salute.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

So you're saying that any assignment that isn't strictly in the text book (to the point of, if the text book doesn't say "read this out loud" then they can't be required to read it out loud) is optional and need not even be given an alternative assignment? Boy, I wish I would have known that as a student! Wink

She didn't say the pledge, she wrote a paper.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

So you're saying that any assignment that isn't strictly in the text book (to the point of, if the text book doesn't say "read this out loud" then they can't be required to read it out loud) is optional and need not even be given an alternative assignment? Boy, I wish I would have known that as a student! Wink

She didn't say the pledge, she wrote a paper.

That's not at all what I am saying. When it comes to something that they would have a moral or religious objection to, they do have the 1st amendment right to object. Most of the reading is directly from the text or primary sources. The nature of US history is going to draw the above-mentioned objections. If we're reading about Lewis and Clark, no they can't take a pass; sometimes I just have them repeat after me. I wouldn't have them stand and sing the anthem and I don't press the issue of the pledge. I can't justify giving a student an alternate assignment on something like refusing to say the pledge. Nor could I justify giving an alternate assignment because they tried to get out of reading about Lewis and Clark out loud. Reading out loud is never a grade in the grade book, so why would I require a student to do an assignment for a grade?

In 6th and 7th grade we study about the different religions. If the textbook has passages from the Bible, Koran, or Torah, such as the 10 Commandments, I would head it off at the pass and read it to them instead of having them read it.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I agree she had the right to object and not say the pledge. I disagree that being given an alternate assignment was so problematic. I don't know how to say that any more clearly.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6561

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Reading out loud is never a grade in the grade book

All curriculum is going to be different, but in my girls curriculum they are graded on their ability to read out loud. There are a certain number of words to read across the row and you are graded based on how many you get correct.