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Student gives reasons for not standing during pledge



Published: Thu, November 19, 2009 @ 12:09 a.m.

By Jon Moffett

The teenager said she is an atheist and does not support the Pledge of Allegiance.

HUBBARD — One day after the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to her school, the Hubbard High School senior who refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance has explained her reasons for not standing.

Roxanne Westover, 17, of Elmwood Drive, had been reprimanded by the school for refusing to stand during the pledge, which is recited each morning. She said it contradicts her beliefs and she elected not to participate.

“I’m an atheist, and I believe the pledge isn’t something toward our nation,” she said. “It’s more like a religious oath, and I believe that if I stand I’m still participating in it.”

Westover said she had been written up and sent to the principal’s office multiple times for her refusal over the course of the past few weeks. The ACLU sent a letter requesting the school to stop requiring students to say the pledge.

Richard Buchenic, Hubbard schools superintendent, said the district has a policy which requires only teachers to recite the pledge in the morning. He added that students are not required to participate.

Buchenic said he spoke with the ACLU, and the matter had been “dealt with.”

Westover’s mother, Mary, was disappointed with the way the school handled the issue.

“I wasn’t too happy with the school threatening her the way they were,” she said. “She came home in tears one day.”

The younger Westover said everything started late last month when she learned through her history class she didn’t have to stand during the pledge.

“I was like ‘wow, I never had to do this,’ ” she said.

Westover said an assistant principal, who was filling in for her ill English teacher, would send her to the office, where she would miss the entire class period.

“There’d be times when she would write me up, and they’d keep me so long I’d miss everything in the class,” Westover said.

According to Carrie Davis, staff counsel for the ACLU, the matter has been addressed, and the district is cooperating.

“We’re very glad to hear that the school has a policy and that they intend to follow that policy,” she said. “We will be staying in touch with that student to make sure she is not being punished.”

Westover said she encourages others with similar beliefs to stand up for them by sitting down.

“I do encourage students to not stand up and to stand up for what they believe in,” she said. “Even throughout the whole entire thing, I had a lot of people backing me up who felt the same way about it.”

A similar situation occurred in Arkansas when a 10-year-old boy refused to stand.

The boy reportedly has an issue with the line “liberty and justice for all,” saying it doesn’t pertain to gays and lesbians.

When asked if her demonstration had any connection to the Arkansas boycott, Westover said it was simply a coincidence, but supported the boy.

“When I read that, I thought he did have a really good point,” Westover said. “Gays and Lesbians don’t have justice.”

jmoffett@vindy.com


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