Mom Says 1st Grader Was Forced to Stand After Kneeling During the Pledge at School

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Over the weekend, debates surrounding the NFL's Take a Knee protests reached an all-time high. In response, everyone from young athletes to veterans began staging solidarity protests of their own. Following in the footsteps of the NFL players who made headlines, one 6-year-old Florida boy was reprimanded by a teacher for choosing to kneel during the Pledge of Allegiance.


Eugenia McDowell's son made the choice to kneel during the pledge on Monday morning at Wiregrass Elementary School in Wesley Chapel, Florida. Instead of honoring his silent protest, the boy's teacher told him to stand up. On Monday evening, McDowell got this text from the teacher:

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"I just wanted to let you know that this morning when it was time to do the Pledge of Allegiance, (your son) went down on one knee," The text message, acquired by ABC Action News, reads. "I knew where he had seen it but I did tell him that in the classroom we are learning what it means to be a good citizen we're learning about respecting the United States of America and our country symbols and showing loyalty and patriotism and that we stand for the Pledge of Allegiance."

More from CafeMom: It's Every Parent's Right to Opt Our Kids Out of the Pledge of Allegiance 

McDowell says her biggest gripe lies not with how her son was called out, but with the teacher's disregard for her son's right to protest, period. "My concern is she infringed upon his constitutional right to express himself, to protest peacefully, and she also made him feel like his decision to come up with his own opinion about things was the wrong thing to do," McDowell told ABC News.

According to Florida state law, parents must submit a written request in order for their child to be exempted from reciting the pledge. Pasco County School District Spokesperson Linda Cobbe claims the boy would not have been reprimanded had McDowell filed a formal request. "If he had that exemption, nothing would have been said. Students could stand, students could kneel, they don't have to put their hand on their heart. They just have to be respectful of the students who are participating," she told ABC News. 

McDowell claims she was not aware of this policy, nor did she know her son was planning to take a knee during the pledge. Following the incident, the mother reached out to the school to demand a resolution. In an email, she expressed that she wanted a sincere apology from her son's teacher, or they may have to move him to a new class. "I wanted an apology to my son in the same manner that she called him out for kneeling. I also wanted to know if she would be remorseful. If she demonstrated that, then I would have been okay with him remaining in her class," she told ABC News.

But before any formal discussion could take place, McDowell found out that her son had already been assigned to a new teacher.

More from CafeMom: Parents Should Be Proud of Kids Who Kneel During the National Anthem

McDowell and the principal still have plans to meet to further discuss the incident and make attempts at a resolution. She says she hopes she can aid in the conversations surrounding students' rights to express opinions and protest peacefully.

McDowell also stressed the importance of her son -- and others like him -- maintaining their right to publicly support protests like Take a Knee without the danger of being silenced.

"We are no longer going to be silenced," she said. "Our voices will be heard and our little black boys that sit in classrooms today, not just my son but every other child that looks like him, they are not going to be silenced."

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