Taking a cue from NFL Players like Colin Kaepernick and Adrian Foster who have refused to stand at attention during the singing of the National Anthem as a protest for the systemic racism prevalent in the United States, Monica Armando’s entire fourth-grade class at Coral Reef Elementary staged a similar protest and refused to stand during the school’s mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance Monday morning, an act of defiance that has resulted in the entire class’s suspension.
The protest was reportedly organized by 9-year-olds Daisy Clark and Jefferey Douglas and inspired by the pair watching several members of the Miami Dolphins refuse to stand for the country’s anthem during Sunday’s football game. The two organized the protest for a project Ms. Monica assigned their class that required them to “do something that celebrates your freedom as an American” during the September 11th weekend.
“I was over Jefferey’s house to work on the assignment when the football game was starting. Jefferey’s step-dad was sitting on the couch during the singing of the National Anthem and complaining about how disrespectful it was that the millionaire players refused to stand. When we found out that they were protesting how black people are still treated worse than white people in the Country, we thought the protest was a very powerful example of someone using their freedoms to help others,” said Daisy, who likes Jefferey, but doesn’t like-like him.
“We had just learned that heroism means doing something hard to benefit someone else the other day in class, and about how as Americans we have the freedom to say whatever we want, so we thought it would be a good idea to join their protest as part of our assignment.” added Jefferey, who like-likes Daisy.
The pair started calling their classmates, all of whom agreed that the next morning they would sit silently in their chairs during the daily reading of the Pledge of Allegiance, and if asked why they were not standing they would say that they refused to pledge allegiance to a country that has not and does not treat all of its citizens equally under the law.
Unfortunately for the students, the following day’s protest coincided with a school-wide assembly to celebrate local first responders and military veterans in honor of 9/11. Sitting in the school’s large auditorium, with dozens of uniformed local heroes standing in front of them, the intended patriotic act of Ms. Monica’s students appeared as an act of disrespect to onlookers.
The Plantain spoke to the School’s volunteer librarian and World War II veteran Edward Morales about his thoughts on the students’s protest. “I was disgusted. Absolutely disgusted,” said Mr. Morales in full military dress, who was himself organizing a protest for later in the afternoon during which Jefferey and Daisy’s gym uniforms would be set on fire. “I didn’t nearly give up my life fighting for Democracy against a totalitarian regime just so children in the United States could chose not to declare allegiance to the United States. That isn’t what democracy and freedom means,” added the elderly veteran without irony.
Following the pledge, the School’s irate principal announced that all students who did not stand for the Pledge were suspended for a week and required to write a 1000 word essay on the importance of symbolism to a democratic system.
The punishment came as a shock to the protesting students, many of whom began to cry from fear of their parents’s reaction to the suspension. This was especially true for Henry Santiago, a wheelchair bound 5th grader who did intend to participate in the protest but was nevertheless suspended for failure to stand. “Democracy requires bright line rules,” explained Doug Malone, a Coral Reef administrator and former Army reservist. “Patriotism knows no disability.”
As for Ms. Monica, who has been suspended with pay pending an investigation into what some are calling an un-American assignment, she said that she is very proud of her students. “Our Country was founded on the belief that symbols or blind political allegiances are not as important as the free flow of thought. A protest organized by American children against the inequalities that have and continue to plague our country is the most patriotic thing I can think of.”