ILNews

School, student settle pledge suit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Within a week of filing a federal lawsuit, a settlement has been reached on a case involving a high school student who was punished for not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Franklin Community School Corp. superintendent said the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has agreed to drop the lawsuit. The school district will pay the student's $1,000 in attorney fees, clear his school record, and not require participation by standing or any other way during the Pledge of Allegiance and a brief moment of silence.

A 17-year-old student identified only as J.L. filed a five-page suit Feb. 22 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against the school corporation.

According to the suit, J.L. decided not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence Feb. 15. A science teacher warned J.L. that he'd be punished for not standing in the future, and when the student later asked what legal authority allowed the school to punish him for not participating, the educator responded "because his teacher 'said so,' not because the law required it," the suit said.

On Feb. 19, J.L. again sat silently and didn't participate in the pledge or moment of silence and was sent to the assistant principal's office. He received detention, but then school officials realized they'd misinterpreted the law, according to Franklin Community School Corp. Superintendent William Patterson.

Indiana law requires that there be a moment of silence and recitation of the pledge every day during school, but it does not force a student to say the pledge or participate. State law says that teachers are responsible for making sure students remain seated or standing during the moment of silence, and that they maintain silence and do not distract other students.

Patterson said administrators thought the law allowed schools to require all students to stand or sit, but not pick one over the other.

ACLU of Indiana attorney Jacquelyn Bowie Suess could not be reached by Indiana Lawyer Feb. 27.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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