12-year-old boy scolded after not standing for Pledge of Allegiance

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa family turned to 8 On Your Side after they say their son landed in hot water for not standing up during the Pledge of Allegiance.

The student has every right not to take part in the Pledge. The Hillsborough County School District’s policy says students do not have to take part, as long as they don’t get in the way of other students who want to say it.

“I don’t believe in standing up for it because there’s more than one religion,” 12-year-old Mark Dawson said.

Mark is a sixth grader at Liberty Middle School. “I believe in more than one religion and more than one nation,” he said about his choice.

Mark said a teacher yelled at him during first period last month because of his decision not to stand and say the pledge. He was told to leave the classroom, he said.

News Channel 8 discovered it was the teacher who was in the wrong. A school spokesperson said the teacher didn’t know the school policy but now does after talking with the principal.

Mark’s aunt said she considers the boy’s actions to be courageous. “I will stand behind him if he’s right, and if he’s wrong, I will tell him that he’s wrong,” Sauda Silver said.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, Silver added. “To stand up for what you believe in … even if it means losing everything,” she said.

Mark still does not take part in saying the pledge, even though, he says, other classmates give him a hard time. “I want to follow my own path … of believing in what I want,” Mark said.

The family says Mark was scolded three times. A school spokesperson said it only happened once. Family members say they’re thinking of suing the school district for infringing on Mark’s rights.

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