- Associated Press - Thursday, July 7, 2016

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - The Lafayette Parish School Board has refused to change its policy on the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.

The policy requires students to stand during the pledge, even if they do not recite it because of religious beliefs.

In April, an advocacy group asked the district to change its policy, alleging that an Acadiana High teacher mistreated a student who refused to stand during the pledge. That prompted district officials to suggest removing that requirement.

Multiple news outlets report the board voted 8-1 Wednesday to keep the current policy.

Board Vice President Dawn Morris cast the dissenting vote.

Morris said she believes the current policy doesn’t track with state law and needed to be changed.

“One of the things our military fights for is the United States Constitution,” she said. “While many of us have personal beliefs, we have to look at the core of what our country is based on.”

Several board members said reciting the pledge at the beginning of each school day is an important part of student life.

Board attorney Bob Hammonds noted that courts as high as the U.S. Supreme Court have ruled that schools cannot require students to stand for the pledge, since sitting and not reciting it is considered a form of freedom of speech.

Because of those rulings, board member Tehmi Chassion questioned whether the district’s policy can be enforced.

“When the kid decides not to stand, we can’t punish that kid,” Chassion said. “Do I want them to stand? Yes, I want them to stand. I want them to recite it proudly. But no principal, or anyone, can discipline a kid for not standing. That’s the law from the land.”

Board member Jeremy Hidalgo noted that the current policy does not require students to say the pledge.

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