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Superintendent: Student Doesn't Have to Recite Pledge of Allegiance

BELFAST, Maine - A Belfast High School junior shouldn't have been sent to the principal's office when he refused to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance last Friday, according to the superintendent in RSU 20.

Attorneys with a Washington-D.C. based humanist organization sent a letter to the district protesting the punishment, after the student reached out to the group, claiming his legal rights had been violated.

In an interview, RSU Superintendent Brian Carpenter says he first found out about the incident, after getting an e-mail from The Portland Press Herald.

The letter, sent to the district by the legal arm of the American Humanist Association, warned that punishing the student was against the law and demanded that RSU 20 address the matter.

Carpenter did his own research and confirmed that under state and federal law students aren't required to recite the pledge.

"So I put out an e-mail to all staff yesterday, including administration, that students do not have to stand or recite the Pledge of Allegiance."

In January, a South Portland high school student added the words "if you'd like to" to her daily invitation to students to say the Pledge.

The student's actions have drawn national attention, including expressions of support and condemnation, following a Press Herald story on the controversy, published late last month.