Kelly Porter was furious after her son was recently denied his right to sit during the flag ritual. The mother of 15-year-old Shemar Cooper, a sophomore at Eisenhower High School in Chicago, has contacted the school’s superintendent several times to no avail.
The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America was written in 1892 by a socialist, Francis Bellamy, as a Columbus Day marketing campaign to sell flags to public schools. The original gesture to acknowledge the flag was created by editor James B. Upham of The Youth’s Companion magazine that ran the campaign. The Bellamy salute was so compelling that it was adopted by Italian fascists and Hitler’s Nazis in the 1920s. Removal of the Bellamy salute occurred in 1942, when Congress added the pledge to the Flag Code and specified the current hand-over-heart gesture.
“Last Friday my son decided he did not want to stand up to Pledge the Allegiance,” Porter told WBBM. “He has that right. His teacher approached him and insisted that he stand up. Well, he said ‘America sucks.’ Now, maybe that was a little disrespectful so I came up to the school on Friday and had my son apologize.”
Porter thought that would be the end of it, but all this week he has reportedly received harassment from that same teacher and other staff members, including being sent to the office for the refusal to stand.
The teacher was said to have tried to pull him out of his seat on Tuesday, again insisting he stand, and on Thursday, he was pulled out of class and reprimanded.
“But to literally try to force my son out of the chair, that is against the law,” Porter said.
He explained to his mother he does not think America supports Black people, so he does not believe in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“He sees the news, he sees what’s going on with Black kids,” Porter said.
She said she wants the teacher arrested and was filing a police report. Porter has legal precedent on her side. The Supreme Court has ruled that students cannot be compelled to recite the Pledge, nor can they be punished for not doing so. In 2006 a Florida school district was ordered to pay $32,500 to a student who chose not to say the pledge and was ridiculed and called “unpatriotic” by a teacher.
Principal Eric Briseno is reportedly looking into the family’s allegations.