Brave 10-year-old Arkansas boy refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance, on principle


Adults worry about peer pressure.  Kids can goad other kids into doing stupid things, dangerous things, illegal things, and immoral things.

Pressure from adults on kids might be just as strong.

What about a 10-year-old kid who stands up to peer pressure, and stands for principle against adults who use all sorts of inducements to get him to do something he believes is wrong?

I offer a salute to Will Phillips of  West Fork School District, in Washington County, Arkansas.

Will believes homosexuals in America are not beneficiaries of  liberty and justice for all.  Will now refuses to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance for that reason.

It’s probably not what I’d advise the young man to do to protest, but he has every right.  He’s thought it through, which may not be said for the substitute teacher and the school administrator who tried to pressure him into giving up on his principles.

In the Arkansas Times, David Koon writes the story:

A boy and his flag

Why Will won’t pledge.

David Koon
Updated: 11/5/2009

WILL PHILLIPS: Freedom lover.

Will Phillips, freedom lover, in Arkansas (Arkansas Times photo)

Will Phillips isn’t like other boys his age.

For one thing, he’s smart. Scary smart. A student in the West Fork School District in Washington County, he skipped a grade this year, going directly from the third to the fifth. When his family goes for a drive, discussions are much more apt to be about Teddy Roosevelt and terraforming Mars than they are about Spongebob Squarepants and what’s playing on Radio Disney.

It was during one of those drives that the discussion turned to the pledge of allegiance and what it means. Laura Phillips is Will’s mother. “Yes, my son is 10,” she said. “But he’s probably more aware of the meaning of the pledge than a lot of adults. He’s not just doing it rote recitation. We raised him to be aware of what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s fair.”

Will’s family has a number of gay friends. In recent years, Laura Phillips said, they’ve been trying to be a straight ally to the gay community, going to the pride parades and standing up for the rights of their gay and lesbian neighbors. They’ve been especially dismayed by the effort to take away the rights of homosexuals – the right to marry, and the right to adopt. Given that, Will immediately saw a problem with the pledge of allegiance.

“I’ve always tried to analyze things because I want to be lawyer,” Will said. “I really don’t feel that there’s currently liberty and justice for all.”

After asking his parents whether it was against the law not to stand for the pledge, Will decided to do something. On Monday, Oct. 5, when the other kids in his class stood up to recite the pledge of allegiance, he remained sitting down. The class had a substitute teacher that week, a retired educator from the district, who knew Will’s mother and grandmother. Though the substitute tried to make him stand up, he respectfully refused. He did it again the next day, and the next day. Each day, the substitute got a little more cross with him. On Thursday, it finally came to a head. The teacher, Will said, told him that she knew his mother and grandmother, and they would want him to stand and say the pledge.

“She got a lot more angry and raised her voice and brought my mom and my grandma up,” Will said. “I was fuming and was too furious to really pay attention to what she was saying. After a few minutes, I said, ‘With all due respect, ma’am, you can go jump off a bridge.’ ”

Will was sent to the office, where he was given an assignment to look up information about the flag and what it represents. Meanwhile, the principal called his mother.

“She said we have to talk about Will, because he told a sub to jump off a bridge,” Laura Phillips said. “My first response was: Why? He’s not just going to say this because he doesn’t want to do his math work.”

Eventually, Phillips said, the principal told her that the altercation was over Will’s refusal to stand for the pledge of allegiance, and admitted that it was Will’s right not to stand. Given that, Laura Phillips asked the principal when they could expect an apology from the teacher. “She said, ‘Well I don’t think that’s necessary at this point,’ ” Phillips said.

After Phillips put a post on the instant-blogging site twitter.com about the incident, several of her friends got angry and alerted the news media. Meanwhile, Will Phillips still refuses to stand during the pledge of allegiance. Though many of his friends at school have told him they support his decision, those who don’t have been unkind, and louder.

“They [the kids who don’t support him] are much more crazy, and out of control and vocal about it than supporters are.”

Given that his protest is over the rights of gays and lesbians, the taunts have taken a predictable bent. “In the lunchroom and in the hallway, they’ve been making comments and doing pranks, and calling me gay,” he said. “It’s always the same people, walking up and calling me a gaywad.”

Even so, Will said that he can’t foresee anything in the near future that will make him stand for the pledge. To help him deal with the peer pressure, his parents have printed off posts in his support on blogs and websites. “We’ve told him that people here might not support you, but we’ve shown him there are people all over that support you,” Phillips said. “It’s really frustrating to him that people are being so immature.”

At the end of our interview, I ask young Will a question that might be a civics test nightmare for your average 10-year-old. Will’s answer, though, is good enough — simple enough, true enough — to give me a little rush of goose pimples.  What does being an American mean?

“Freedom of speech,” Will says, without even stopping to think. “The freedom to disagree. That’s what I think pretty much being an American represents.”

Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson smiles.

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12 Responses to Brave 10-year-old Arkansas boy refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance, on principle

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Individuals standing up for their rights. Young kid stands up to teacher who is in error. Rush Limbaugh celebrates that all the time as “true Americanism.” Other, right-wing blogs celebrate this sort of action all the time. Are you saying Limbaugh is a leftist? I fail to follow your logic here, k ramirez.

    Like

  2. jsojourner says:

    K-Ram,

    Lots of substance to your “contribution”. Why don’t you engage the issue? Got something to say with some heft to it?

    Jim

    Like

  3. k ramirez says:

    This is a Left-wing pat-themselves-on-the-back website: good for nothing.
    No substance; only self-congratulation.

    Like

  4. Ed Darrell says:

    That’d be unfair to Prejean, wouldn’t it?

    Like

  5. Tony Whitson says:

    What about a debate between Phillips and “opposite sex” beauty queen Carrie Prejean?

    See

    http://wp.me/p1V0H-Nu

    Like

  6. Tony Whitson says:

    How about a debate between Phillips and “opposite marriage” beauty queen Carrie Prejean?

    See

    http://wp.me/p1V0H-Nu

    Like

  7. Porlock Junior says:

    Thanks, it has now allowed me to exist under my usual aname (in place of an amazing bit of gibberish) and is willing to sign me up to follow threads. Victory is mine. As I hope it will be for this remarkable kid.

    Like

  8. Ed Darrell says:

    Anytime WordPress doesn’t play fair, come on over and build the traffic here. Any time.

    Hope it works for you now.

    Like

  9. Ben says:

    MediaCurves.com conducted a study among 328 viewers of a new clip discussing a student who refuses to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in support of gay marriage. The majority of viewers (66%) reported that the student should not be forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. While the majority of respondents supported the student after watching the video, prior to viewing the video, the majority of viewers (65%) indicated that students “should be” forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. More in depth results can be seen at:

    http://www.mediacurves.com/Politics/J7639-PledgeofAllegiance/Index.cfm

    Thanks,
    Ben

    Like

  10. porlockjr says:

    Apologies for this null post. Trying to get WordPress to play fair with me.

    Like

  11. Porlock Junior says:

    Arkansas ain’t what it used to be when my political world view was forming, if the existence of the Arkansas times is an indication. (Keyword: Orval Faubus)

    Like

  12. Chunklets says:

    Good on the young fella! Makes one feel a bit hopeful!

    Like

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