When a fourth-grader stood with the rest of his class at Explorer K-8 school for the Pledge of Allegiance, his teacher spotted something she deemed amiss.
The student at the Spring Hill, Fla. school wasn’t putting his hand over his heart.
And it was Sept. 11.
That’s when Anne Daigle-McDonald allegedly sprang into action, grabbing the student’s wrist and directing him to place his hand over his heart for the pledge because “he is an American and needed to show respect,” the Tampa Tribune noted, citing an investigation.
But the student reportedly stood his ground, telling McDonald that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t worship objects, and while he would stand for the pledge out of respect for his country, he was prohibited by his religion to place his hand over his heart.
The investigation alleged that McDonald also went to the front of the class and said, “If you don’t want to say the pledge, you still have to put your hand on your heart and if you don’t want to do that, you should move out of the country.”
The teacher allegedly twice attempted to place the student’s hand over his heart, the Bradenton Herald reported, adding that the subsequent investigation was spearheaded by the Hernando County School Board.
Several of the student’s classmates corroborated the allegations, the investigation found, and McDonald was removed from student contact and placed on alternative assignment on Sept. 12, the Tribune reports.
In addition, the report noted that a parent told McDonald on the first day of school that the student and his family were Jehovah’s Witnesses and “did not celebrate holidays,” the Tribune said. McDonald told administrators that she thought the student’s religion applied only to holidays but didn’t contact the student’s parents for clarification, according to the report.
The investigation added that McDonald said she doesn’t believe it’s a good practice to regularly place hands on students but does feel strongly that a U.S. citizen should show respect to the flag.
The district found McDonald violated state education rules, professional conduct principles, and the student’s right to free speech and freedom of religion, the Herald reported.
McDonald was suspended five days without pay by Superintendent Lori Romano, who reported the incident to the Florida Department of Education and ordered McDonald provide proof of completion of diversity training.
Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot salute or pledge to symbols, NBC News reports.
(H/T: Weasel Zippers)