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CA High School Threatens Students’ Right to Protest

For Immediate Release


Jennifer Bardi, (202) 238-9088,

(Washington, D.C., September 18, 2019) – Attorneys at the American Humanist Association warned administrators at Mira Costa High School this morning against the unconstitutional behavior of discouraging students from protesting the Pledge of Allegiance.

On September 11, 2019, the principal of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District high school announced via the intercom that he was “personally offended by any teacher or student who did not stand for the Pledge.” The principal has also canvassed the school in an effort to discern if anyone was not standing for the daily ritual.

As the warning letter states, any attempts by the school district or administrators to infringe on students’ rights to refuse to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance “would be actionable as a serious constitutional violation.”

“A public school principal policing student Pledge participation not only runs afoul of decades of settled First Amendment jurisprudence, it is also eerily reminiscent of McCarthy-era witch hunting,” explained Monica Miller, Legal Director and Senior Counsel at the American Humanist Association. “It is not un-American to protest the Pledge, yet it is flagrantly un-American to curtail freedom of speech.”

In 1943, the Supreme Court guaranteed that no student can be disciplined or singled-out for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech by refusing to stand for or recite the Pledge. Public school students have the right to refuse to participate, and are also protected by the Constitution if they choose to protest the Pledge of Allegiance.

The warning letter demands a response from the school district within one week.


The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation and the Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

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