A New Jersey middle school teacher who “habitually” took a knee during the school’s recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance has been reassigned during the school’s homeroom period.
Earlier this month, the school board of the Vineland Public Schools district listened to public input on the situation at Sgt. Dominick Pilla Middle School, attempting to discern a balance between a teacher’s rights and classroom professionalism.
According to the Vineland Daily Journal, Vineland’s executive director of personnel said the (unidentified) teacher “has not indicated anything ‘political’ about her views.”
Vineland school board policy “prohibits the use of school premises and school time […] for partisan political purposes.” However, the president of the Vineland Education Association said the situation could be a “teachable moment” for students.
“It would be one thing if she was proselytizing to kids that you can’t stand, or you shouldn’t stand for this reason, but she’s not doing that,” Lou Russo said. He added teachers can’t force students to stand for the Pledge nor make them leave the room if they refuse to stand, so why would students have more rights than an employee?
On Tuesday, the district came to a compromise: The teacher would have do a different duty other than homeroom, the time when the Pledge is recited.
“Like all principals, Mr. [Ismael] Bermudez has the authority to utilize his building staff as appropriate,” Rossi said. “The district and the teacher agree that this is a reasonable solution for all parties.”
The VEA [Vineland Education Association] agreed.
“It is a reasonable compromise that balances a school employee’s free exercise of their religion versus a parent’s concern of how that free exercise may influence their child,” the union president Lou Russo said. “We requested a legal opinion from our state affiliate and await its findings.”
Philly Voice reports the teacher “defended her First Amendment rights” and confirmed to the school board what the Vineland personnel director said: Her actions weren’t “politically motivated.”
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