- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

SAN JACINTO, Calif. (AP) - A Southern California school district will apologize to an 11-year-old atheist who said his teacher questioned him for refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Ivan Cobarrubias kept his seat for several days during the morning pledge at Monte Vista Middle School earlier this month because the words “under God” in the pledge violate his beliefs.

The boy complained to his mother that his teacher questioned him about his actions and she contacted the Washington, D.C.-based American Humanist Association, a nonprofit group that takes up the cause of atheists, the Riverside Press-Enterprise (http://bit.ly/1oDO9HG) reported.

In an Oct. 9 letter to the school district’s superintendent and the school’s principal, the association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center said the seventh-grader had a legal right to remain seated during the pledge.

Mark Thompson, whose law firm represents the San Jacinto Unified School District, told The Associated Press that an apology would be delivered to the boy and his family next week.

In an Oct. 23 letter to the atheist legal center, Thompson said everyone “seemed to agree that there was no hostility or failure of polite respectful demeanor” when the teacher questioned the student in the hallway outside class about why he did not want to stand.

The teacher never threatened to discipline Ivan and, after researching the matter, agreed with the boy that he had the right to remain seated, the letter said.

However, it was possible the teacher “went beyond necessary and appropriate inquiry” with his original questioning, the letter stated.

In addition to the apology, a banner that read “Prayer Changes Things” has been removed from the teacher’s classroom, the letter said.

The boy’s mother told the Press-Enterprise she was happy with the outcome.

“I see it as a victory,” Sandra Covarrubias said. “When I read the letter, I was very happy.”

San Jacinto, a city of 45,000, is 85 miles east of Los Angeles.

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