(The Hill) — A Texas teacher agreed to pay a $90,000 settlement last week after he was sued by a student on First Amendment grounds for requiring a class to write out the Pledge of Allegiance.
The incident occurred in 2017 when teacher Benjie Arnold asked his class to write out the Pledge of Allegiance or receive a failing grade. The student, Mari Oliver, wrote a squiggly line on the paper, and failed the assignment as a result.
Oliver, who is Black, refused to write out the pledge over religious and social justice reasons relating to the treatment of Black Americans in the United States.
Forty-seven states in the U.S. require the Pledge of Allegiance be recited in public schools, with varying exemptions for students or staff who wish to opt out. The 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, West Virginia V. Barnette, determined that no school or government can compel someone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the flag.
But states can still require it while offering exemptions. And states have varying levels of exemptions — for example, Florida and Texas allow for a student to be exempted from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance only if a parent or guardian consents.
Here is a full breakdown of states’ laws on the Pledge of Allegiance.
States with no policy for the pledge
Nebraska – There is no statute in the state of Nebraska, but the state’s school board required the Pledge of Allegiance be recited at public schools in 2012.
Wyoming, Vermont and Hawaii
States that require the pledge be recited, with no clear exemptions
Kansas – The state of Kansas does require the pledge to be recited, but leaves oversight to the state’s Board of Education.
Georgia, Illinois, New Mexico and Nevada
Massachusetts – There is no clear exemption in the state of Massachusetts: “Failure for a period of two consecutive weeks by a teacher to salute the flag and recite said pledge as aforesaid, or to cause the pupils under his charge so to do, shall be punished for every such period by a fine of not more than five dollars,” the law states.
California – The state of California requires the pledge to be recited, but leaves oversight to school districts.
Delaware – The state of Delaware requires the pledge to be recited, and a bill that would have established a clear exemption and eliminated a penalty against teachers for not leading students in the patriotic exercise was tabled in a state legislature’s committee last year.
States requiring the Pledge be recited with stricter exemptions
Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania – In these states, a student must provide written notice from parent or guardian to gain exemption.
Utah – In Utah, students must provide written notice from parent or guardian to gain exemption, but the code does require schools to notify students they can opt out.
Washington – In the state of Washington, “students not reciting the pledge shall maintain a respectful silence,” according to state law.
New Jersey – In New Jersey, Exempt students “shall be required to show full respect to the flag while the pledge is being given merely by standing at attention, the boys removing the headdress.”
Virginia – In Virginia, exempt students must be quiet during recitation. The code also says every student must learn about the pledge and demonstrate knowledge of it.
Oregon and Tennessee – Exempt students must remain quiet.
States with new laws establishing the Pledge be recited in schools
Montana and Arkansas – These states passed updates to state laws in 2021 with clear exemptions.
North Dakota – North Dakota passed an update to its state law in 2021 that says schools may authorize a voluntary recitation.
Alabama – Alabama passed an update to its state law requiring recitation in 2019 with a clear exemption.
Iowa – Iowa passed a state law on the matter requiring recitation for the first time in 2021 with a clear exemption.
States with exemptions, but varying interpretations
Kentucky – Kentucky state law says: “Pupils shall be reminded that this Lord’s prayer is the prayer our pilgrim fathers recited when they came to this country in their search for freedom. Pupils shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual’s personal religious beliefs in any manner.”
Alaska – Alaska requires school districts to inform people of their right not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Oklahoma – The Sooner state requires schools post a notice in a conspicuous place informing them that they don’t have to participate.
States with clear exemptions
South Dakota, North Carolina, Mississippi, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Minnesota, New Hampshire, West Virginia, South Carolina, Colorado, Idaho, Wisconsin, Maryland, Maine, Indiana, Louisiana and Rhode Island