WESLEY CHAPEL (FOX 13) - A Pasco County mother is furious after a teacher told her first-grader to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
After a weekend of controversy led by the president and outspoken athletes, the 6-year-old Wiregrass Elementary School student took a knee.
The boy's mother was then sent a text message by her son's teacher, saying:
"I just wanted to let you know that this morning when it was time to do the Pledge of Allegiance [your son] went down on one knee. I know where he had seen it but I did tell him that in the classroom we are learning what it means to be a good citizen we're learning about respecting the United States of America and our country symbols and showing loyalty and patriotism and that we stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I know its a sensitive issue but I wanted to make you aware. Thanks"
"He was influenced by what he saw over the weekend, the conversations we were having," the student's mother, Eugenia McDowell, told FOX 13 News. "When he demonstrated what he did, he took a knee and he put his hand over his heart."
Pasco County schools' code of conduct says only students with notes from their parents may opt out of the daily Pledge of Allegiance. But it also says teachers can't intervene if a student doesn't take part. Rather, they should simply report it to administration later on.
"It immediately caused him to think again about ever expressing himself in a way that would be different than how other people are expressing themselves," said McDowell.
Other counties are grappling with kneeling, as well, ahead of high school sporting events set to take place this weekend.
Hillsborough County's code of conduct says its students should stand at attention when possible, but that they have the right to decide whether to participate at all. Manatee County schools sent a note Wednesday insisting that all students stand.
McDowell had a meeting with the principal on Wednesday. She said the teacher said she felt attacked because McDowell contacted the media, so she did not attend. But a schools spokesperson disputed that account Thursday, insisting it was the principal’s decision not to include the teacher.
McDowell also says she, the school, and the teacher agreed it was in everyone's best interest for her son to be transferred to a different class.
"The biggest takeaway is every voice matters," said McDowell. "No matter how big or small... you can make an impact on the world."
The district says the teacher will not face official disciplinary action.