Are Students in Kentucky and Indiana Required to Say the Pledge of Allegiance?
For most of us, we can remember standing at our desks in school, facing the American flag that hung in the classroom, and our right hand over our hearts while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. In my St. Louis high school, students took turns being selected to sing the national anthem during morning announcements each day, followed by leading the pledge to kick off our school days.
The History of the Pledge of Allegiance
The tradition of students reciting our nation’s pledge dates all the way back to October 21, 1892. According to the Smithsonian Magazine,
“Francis Bellamy reportedly wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in two hours, but it was the culmination of nearly two years of work at the Youth’s Companion, the country’s largest-circulation magazine. In a marketing gimmick, the Companion offered U.S. flags to readers who sold subscriptions, and now, with the looming 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World, the magazine planned to raise the Stars and Stripes “over every Public School from the Atlantic to the Pacific” and salute it with an oath.”
The Pledge Has Been Controversial for Some Time
Currently, 47 states require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools with a variety of exemptions that allow them to opt out. Recently in Texas, controversy sparked over a teacher’s agreement to pay a $90,000 settlement after being sued by a student. The student, Mari Oliver, sued her high school teacher, Benjie Arnold, in 2017 stating her First Amendment rights were violated when he made the class write out the Pledge of Allegiance or they would receive a failing grade.
Controversy over the patriotic oath has made headlines for decades. From its inclusion of the words “under God” added during the Cold War era to multiple Supreme Court cases, the pledge has incited criticism since its creation. In 1943, the ruling by the Supreme Court in West Virginia v. Barnette decided the government or school could force someone to say the pledge or salute the flag.
Although schools cannot mandate reciting the pledge, they are allowed to require it with exemptions.
Where Do Indiana and Kentucky Stand on Pledge of Allegiance Laws?
So, where do Indiana and Kentucky stand on their Pledge of Allegiance laws? Here is a breakdown of where we stand on the Pledge of Allegiance in Indiana and Kentucky:
Indiana Pledge of Allegiance Laws
Indiana falls among 19 other states that require the pledge in schools but have set clear exemptions for those who choose to abstain.
According to Indiana Code 20-30-5-0.5:
“The governing body of each school corporation shall provide a daily opportunity for students of the school corporation to voluntarily recite the Pledge of Allegiance in each classroom or on school grounds. A student is exempt from participation in the Pledge of Allegiance and may not be required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance if:
(1) the student chooses to not participate; or
(2) the student's parent chooses to have the student not participate.”
Kentucky's Pledge of Allegiance Laws
On the other hand, Kentucky is one of three states that allow exemptions, but leave room for varying interpretations of what these exemptions include.
KRS 158.175: Recitation of Lord's prayer and pledge of allegiance states:
“As a continuation of the policy of teaching our country's history and as an affirmation of the freedom of religion in this country, the board of education of a local school district may authorize the recitation of the traditional Lord's prayer and the pledge of allegiance to the flag in public elementary schools. Pupil participation in the recitation of the prayer and pledge of allegiance shall be voluntary. Pupils shall be reminded that this Lord's prayer is the prayer our pilgrim fathers recited when they came to this country in their search for freedom. Pupils shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual's personal religious beliefs in any manner. The exercises shall be conducted so that pupils shall learn of our great freedoms…”