Attorney General Ken Paxton today intervened into a lawsuit to defend parental rights protected under a Texas law that standardizes the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, but allows parents to have their children opt out. A former Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District student refused to participate in the pledge and sued, claiming that the requirement is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents have a fundamental interest in guiding the education and upbringing of their children, which is a critical aspect of liberty guaranteed by the Constitution,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The Texas Legislature protected that interest by giving the choice of whether an individual student will recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the student’s parent or guardian. School children cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge.”
Texas is among 26 states with similar statutes that make reciting the Pledge of Allegiance a regular part of every school day. Furthermore, 16 other states have statutes that allow for time to be set aside for students who wish to say the Pledge of Allegiance. On written request from a student’s parent of guardian, a Texas public or charter school can excuse a child from participating in the pledge. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has held that doing so is a legitimate way to protect parents’ interest in determining how their children will be educated on civic values and does not violate the students’ First Amendment rights.
“Requiring the pledge to be recited at the start of every school day has the laudable result of fostering respect for our flag and a patriotic love of our country,” Attorney General Paxton said. “This case is about providing for the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance while respecting the parental right to direct the education of children. The district court should uphold the Education Code and the right of parents to determine whether their children will recite the Pledge of Allegiance.”