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Texas AG Defends State Law Requiring Students Stand During Pledge Of Allegiance

Ryan E. Poppe

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has announced he will defend a state law mandating that every student stand during the reciting of the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

Almost a year ago, 17-year old India Landry, a high school senior in the Cypress-Fairbanks school district near Houston, was expelled for refusing to stand during the pledge.

The Texas Education Code says school districts must require a student to recite the pledge once a day.  

But that same law also allows a student to stand and opt out of reciting the pledge if they have written permission from a parent or guardian.

Attorneys representing Landry argue the law, even with the opt-out option, violates a student’s constitutional rights.

Gerald Treece, who teaches constitutional law at the South Texas College of Law Houston, said the case involves “coerced political speech.”

​“They are saying I’m being coerced into standing which gives the appearance that I support all the things the flag stands for,” Treece said.

Treece said Landry’s attorneys have a valid argument for how the law has the potential to violate any person’s constitutional rights.

“State law does at least allow an opt-out for saying anything, but sometimes speech is conduct, expressionis conduct, and that’s why I think the student has a valid argument. (She) may not prevail, but it’s a valid argument,” Treece said.

Paxton, in a statement, said, “Requiring the pledge to be recited fosters respect for the flag."

The case is scheduled to come before a federal judge in 2019

Ryan Poppe can be reached at rpoppe@tpr.org or on Twitter @RyanPoppe1