The familiar sound of students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning before the beginning of the school day is a tradition worth keeping.

For many children, it is one of the earliest ways in which they show appreciation and support for their country.

Most students recite this pledge day in and day out and never think anything of it. Occasionally, however, students refuse.

When a student refused to stand for or recite the pledge at one Texas high school, the school came down hard.

From KHOU 11 News:

 Mason Michalec says he loves his country but just not the government.

“I’m really tired of our government taking advantage of us,” said Michalec. “I don’t agree with the NSA spying on us. And I don’t agree with any of those Internet laws.”

That’s why he’s taken a pledge of sorts to not say the Pledge of Allegiance with classmates.

“I’ve basically said it from the time I was in kindergarten to earlier this year and that’s when I decided I was done saying it.”

For the most this year, his silent protest has gone unnoticed. But on Wednesday, when a different teacher observed it for the very first time, the Needville High School sophomore ran into trouble.

“And she told me this is my classroom,” said Michalec. “This is the principal’s request. You’re going to stand. And I still didn’t stand and she said she was going to write me up.”

Michalec says the principal sentenced him to two days of in school suspension, and warned that he could face more ISS if his protest continued.

It’s a consequence the 15-year-old seems prepared to face.

Reporting on this story, HotAir authors Jazz Shaw and Erika Johnsen came down on opposite sides of the debate as to whether the school was within its rights to level the suspension against the young man.

Johnsen pointed out that the issue was settled by the Supreme Court over 70 years ago, and that the school clearly infringed on the Michalec’s constitutional right not to be coerced into saying the Pledge of Alliegance.

Shaw made an interesting counterargument, noting that children have their rights limited often, “because they’re children.”

We limit the constitutional rights of children all the time, and judging by other cases which Doug and I have argued in the past, I believe he knows that as well. We don’t let children vote to elect our representatives. We limit their access to potentially dangerous substances and activities. They generally can’t even get a tattoo or have an aspirin issued to them in school without an adult’s supervision and consent. Why?

Because they are children. [Emphasis Original]

While Shaw is correct to the extent that we limit a great many of children’s rights on account of their age, I’m inclined to agree with Erika. Indeed, none of the examples Shaw points to are in fact “constitutional rights,” in the same way choosing or refusing to speak is.

There is no explicit constitutional right to get a tattoo, or to ingest dangerous substances. The legality of these activities are weighed against the potential public harm (basic public health considerations come to mind), and a consensus is arrived at.

There is also no inherent constitutional right to vote. True, the 15th amendment ensures that you cannot bar an individual from voting on the basis of race, and the 19th amendment bars denial of voting on the basis of sex, yet neither of these guarantee a broad right to vote. Similarly, the 26th amendment prohibits anyone from being barred from voting due to age once they’ve reached 18 years old.

Despite all of these constitutional provisions, there exists no blanket constitutional right to vote, and certainly no one is born with such a right.

In contrast, you are born with the constitutional right to freedom of speech. It can be infringed upon by the government only in the most narrow of circumstances (as even constitutional rights are not absolute). This situation, however, is not such a circumstance.

This situation represents an overreaction by school administration, and it should be reversed.

Although I understand — on an emotional level — what prompted the school to suspend Michalec, the punishment seems to be indefensible from a constitutional law standpoint. Moreover, even from a practical standpoint, suspending Michalec will hardly cause him to “see the light.” Forced allegiance is no allegiance at all.

Meaningful allegiance comes not from coercion, but the freedom to arrive at that allegiance on one’s own. Michalec sounds frustrated with the way things are going in this country right now. While I personally disagree with Michalec’s decision, as an American citizen protected by the Constitution, he is allowed to express that frustration by choosing to not stand for, or say, the Pledge of Allegiance.

Below is a video of an interview with Michalec.

(Featured Image Source: YouTube)