Texas School Suspends Student for Declining to Worship the Flag—Because That's What America's All About


Norman Rockwell

If you are a fan of the First Amendment, you probably have heard of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the 1943 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court said public schools may not force students to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. I am guessing that officials at Needville High School have not heard of Barnette, because if they had they probably would have thought twice about suspending 15-year-old Mason Michalec for refusing to stand during the pledge. KHOU, the CBS station in Houston (which is about 45 miles from Needville), reports that Michalec was given a two-day in-school suspension for remaining seated. Now the principal is threatening him with another suspension unless he gets with the program.

Michalec explained that he sat as an act of protest because he was "really tired of our government taking advantage of us." He added, "I basically said it from the time I was in kindergarten to earlier this year, and that's when I finally decided I was done saying it….I'm angry, frustrated and annoyed that they would try to write me up for something I have the right to do."

Barnette involved Jehovah's Witnesses, who object to flag worship because they (quite plausibly) view it as a form of idolatry. But the decision was based on freedom of speech, which includes the right to refrain from agreement, as well as freedom of religion. Justice Robert Jackson seemed to think the principles at stake were pretty important:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us. 

We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.

Maybe the teacher and principal who suspended Michalec thought making him stand for the Pledge of Allegiance was fundamentally different from making him recite it or making him salute the flag. (It's not.) More likely, they did not think at all.

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  1. If there’s anything the Alamo taught us, it’s follow the ruling authority at all times. Or else.

    1. Mostly, the Alamo taught me what pieces of shit GM cars are.

    2. The Alamo taught us that it’s much better strategy to retreat and join up with the rest of your army rather than allowing yourself to be surrounded by a superior force in order to defend a fort that’s not guarding any place important to begin with.

      1. The Alamo taught Santa Anna the meaning of “pyrrhic victory.”

        1. Considering the fall of the Alamo was immediately followed by the Runaway Scrape, I don’t think it was a very good lesson on pyrrhic victories.

          1. The Runaway Scrape might have had something to do with Santa Ana declaring that he would murder, without giving quarter, any Texian deemed to be in rebellion to Mexican government authority.

            Without the stand at the Alamo and the tremendous losses suffered by the Mexican Army there, the schoolbooks in the Mexican state of Texas would possibly be calling what is known as the Runaway Scrape as, instead, the Hanging and Execution and Defeat of the Traitorous Secessionist Rebels.

      2. The Battle of the Alamo served the important function of slowing down the Mexican Army enough to give Houston and his Texians time to get their act together a bit. Should be remembered though, that the plan and the orders originally were to blow up the place to prevent it falling into enemy hands.

        The massacre there and at Goliad served another function: it all but insured Santa Anna’s eventual defeat due to inflamed Texian passions.

        Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!

        Those aren’t battle cries any Mexican soldiers at the later Battle of San Jacinto probably enjoyed hearing as they were roused from their midday siesta. Santa Anna, the Napolean of the West as he called himself, wasn’t nearly as clever as he liked to think he was. I’ve always thought it a great tragedy of history that Houston didn’t have the pos shot or hanged upon capture.

        1. Apparently Santa Ana didn’t have the epiphany that ordering “no quarter” would make soldiers who would otherwise surrender instead fight to the death, and make the other side angry and determined to avenge those slaughtered by this policy.

    3. The Alamo taught me that messaging is everything, so that even a bunch of land-stealing, slave-holding outlaws can be honored as heroes a century and a half later.

      1. Fuck you, Mary. They all had land grants from the Mexican government, so no land was “stolen.” You might also want to remember that it was largely empty land as well. Some owned slaves, true enough and bad enough, but it had been legal under Mexican law until only recently before that. Wasn’t any worse than all the slaves held in the US at the time.

        1. Why so touchy? What do you care? Does refusing to defend slaveowners suddenly make me a “Mary”?

          Anyway, as I recall, they had land grants that were given to them on the specific condition that they did not hold slaves on the land, which they immediately turned around and did. The rest of your post is just a non-sequitur.

          1. Anyway, as I recall, they had land grants that were given to them on the specific condition that they did not hold slaves on the land, which they immediately turned around and did. The rest of your post is just a non-sequitur.(sic)


            Land grants were first issued by Spanish Mexico in 1821, and Anglo colonists were finally allowed to settle by the newly independent Mexican government about 1822-1823. Although slavery had begun to be restricted all over Mexico as early as 1824, and it became illegal to import new slaves, it was not completely and finally outlawed in Coahuilla y Tejas until 1830. Unfortunately the law was ignored by most of those who already owned slaves.

            African slavery in Mexico was similar to that which existed in the original Thirteen Colonies and later the United States. There were both free and indentured Africans, and there were enslaved Africans, but the numbers were vastly different. In Texas alone, by 1836, there were approximately only 5000 slaves in a population of about 30,000 Anglos and 7800 Tejanos (Latino Mexicans.) Most of them were in East Texas where cotton was being planted. However, the population of slaves grew greatly during the years of the Texas Republic, after independence.

          2. Not a “Mary”, but Mary the troll who used to post here as White Indian. Though I must admit, from your tone you could just as easily be Tony.

            Why so “touchy”? You mean aside from the fact that I grew up and have spent most of my life in Texas?

            Whenever someone brings up the subject of the Texas Revolution, either online or in an editorial, I can always count on some snotty ignoramus attempting to dismiss what people believed, fought and died for – and lived for – as just a bunch of nasty, hypocritical white people wanting to keep their slaves. Or worse – as a group of greedy white, capitalist Americans sent to steal Texas from the poor little brown people south of the border. They all sound like they learned their American history at the knee of some lefty, progressive college professor who would invalidate even the American Revolution because, OMyGod! some of the Founding Fathers owned slaves.

            The War for Texas Independence was not about slavery – it was not the American Civil War – nor was it even originally begun as a war for independence. It was in fact, only part of a much larger domestic conflict occurring all over Mexico at the time. Mexico had established a federalist republic under a constitution when it won its independence from Spanish rule. It was the suspension of that constitution and later implementation of a military dictatorship that gave rise to various revolts around the country, including Texas.

            1. Relax, Mary. Stop trying to make Texans seem like a bunch of assholes who can’t let go of the past.

              1. Uh huh. And don’t bring up that old Declaration of Independence, American Revolution, or Bill of Rights crap either – ‘cuz you don’t want to make Americans “seem like a bunch of assholes who can’t let go of the past.”

        2. Oh what a surprise. Another “libertarian” to tell us how slavery wasn’t THAT bad.

          1. Relative to what? Would it be worse to be a slave in the American south or a prisoner in Gitmo?


          2. Oh what a surprise. Another “libertarian” to tell us how slavery wasn’t THAT bad.


            I didn’t say “slavery wasn’t THAT bad.” I said there being slavery in Texas (as well as other parts of Mexico) wasn’t any worse than the southern United States having slavery at the time.

            But since you bring it up – no, slavery wasn’t always “that” bad. It depended a lot on where you were a slave, what period in which you were a slave, and on who your master was. Oh sure, simple slavery – being owned – was/is always a great evil in itself – no one would deny that – but it could always be either better or worse depending on the particular circumstances. Do you think some field hand on a large cotton plantation in Mississippi experienced the same conditions as a house slave in Virginia? Are you aware that some slaves were even allowed to work and make money on their own after they had finished the master’s work for the day? (You know – kinda like the way modern Americans are allowed to work and keep part of what they make after working the first four or five months each year to pay taxes to the government. Or is it six months now?)

            1. I didn’t say “slavery wasn’t THAT bad.” … But since you bring it up – no, slavery wasn’t always “that” bad.

              Doesn’t anyone notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

              1. Doesn’t anyone notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

                Maybe it’s just that most people here can comprehend what they read and the meaning of what I wrote. Too bad that you don’t seem able to do so.

          3. (continued)

            No way am I trying to defend or apologize for the practice of slavery. I’m just saying it wasn’t a monolithic experience – all shackles and chains, whips and beatings. There are those who would have us believe it was always like that – maybe to prevent us realizing that we all are living in some degree of slavery even now. Paid your Obamacare breathing tax yet? Did you register for Selective Service, young man?

            If you can be ordered – on pain of imprisonment – to fight a war you don’t believe in, even to give your life, either for your own country or even for some other goddamned country, how free are you? How are you not a slave? Do you know what the old term GI meant? Government Issue – government property.

  2. Whenever this sort of thing gets brought up I always feel like asking Pledge-lovers what other socialist or communist propaganda the children should be required to recite. If these super patriots really think that there are American values worth preserving, they should hate the Pledge of Allegiance and should be inclined to tar and feather teachers and administrators who foist that crap on kids.

      1. I think they screwed up: at 0:36 the picture is of Trotsky.

    1. In Texas, unfortunately, you’ll probably get The Lord’s Prayer or The Ten Commandments as an answer.

      Their “American Values” are not your U.S. values.

      1. Yeah, probably not..

      2. I’m guessing you don’t actually live in Texas, and think we’re all a bunch of rednecks and cowboys chawing tobacco and holding church revivals … or something.

        1. Will you deny that there are a lot of people such as you describe in Texas (well, maybe not so many cowboys)?

          1. There is a vast variety of people in Texas, including rednecks and even a few cowboys (oftentimes riding motorcycles rather than horses).

            My boss, for example, has purple dyed hair and looks a teeny bit like a corporatized version of the Girl With a Dragon Tattoo.

            Austin, in particular, is famous for weird. I’ve got long shaggy hair and beard, showed up at my job interview wearing a suit and tie, and not even a comment about the facial hair — just, can you do the job?

        2. Perhaps I should have been more explicit. Of those Texans who would answer the question the Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments would be popular.

          I was born in Texas, and have lived their most of my life. I’m fully aware how diverse it is.

          Personally, I’d pick the Declaration and both Constitutions, U.S. and Texas.

          Reading through the amendments to the Texas Constitution is an excellent primer in government efficiency.

    2. Yeah, maybe we should make more people aware that it’s a socialist pledge.

      1. That might fly in TX, but up here in MA I suspect that suddenly they’d all be standing up a bit straighter.

        1. Ok. How about this: it is also a nationalist (… One Nation, indivisible…) and utterly dismisses the original federal structure established by the Constitution. (It is no mere coincidence that the word “nation” does not appear in the Constitution.)

          So, the Pledge is actually national socialist, a fact that is demonstrated by knuckleheaded high school principals throughout the land.

          1. The fact that it is a pledge of allegiance (to a flag, which is really weird if you think about it) is bad enough for me, regardless of its origins or intended meaning.

            1. I completely agree. I just think it’s interesting that the people who are usually the most hung-ho about the Pledge are also very opposed to socialism. I’d like them to understand that the Pledge is creepy regardless of its ideological origins, but if the most effective way to bring them to understand that is to point out that saying the Pledge = giving Stalin a hummer, so be it.

    1. So if Kevin didn’t refuse to stand then the soldier would have been crippled for nothing, right?

      1. Sadly, he likely was anyway.

        It pains me greatly to say that. I will gladly take it back if anyone can explain to me what we got out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia, etc, and what we are going to get out of Africa.

        1. Regarding Africa – I strongly suspect it has something to do with countering China’s presence there. I can’t prove it though – just a hunch.

          1. Nigeria = oil.

            Lots and lots of oil.

            1. Yes. And even though the US doesn’t really need it, I’m sure it wouldn’t like to see China take it over. There’s also the matter of strategic minerals in Africa.

    2. Marine Todd’s one weakness: a staircase.

      1. Stairs!?!? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooo!

    3. That’s fucking retarded. “Here, let me try and shame you for not blindly worshiping an object.” Fuck you. Not you, Serious. Your mom. She drew that cartoon, right?

    4. My Dad could walk okay, he just took a bayonet in the shoulder. Had any teacher used him like that, however, he would have ripped her a new one.

      Probably where I picked up my attitude.

    5. Ah yes, San Diego’s own Steve Breen. The guy is the fucking worst. Not only do his cartoons cater to the worst populist passions, but every time someone famous dies he dials it in that day and draws a cartoon of that person going into the pearly gates. 100% predictable and allows him to pretty much take a day off every week.

  3. What the school officials really want is obedience. Obedience to themselves.

    1. ^This

    2. Yep. It doesn’t matter *what* they’re forced to say, as long as they are *forced* to submit.

      1. Precisely. Obedience and submission are the primary lessons taught in public schools – probably private ones, too, for that matter.

  4. so long as the school says that reciting the pledge is part of the curriculum, the school will get away with it.

  5. Saw this story elsewhere where it included this juicy little bit:

    Some residents in the small town outside of Houston said the school made the right decision.

    “The soldiers are out there, they’re doing their job and he should stand up,” Needville resident Jo Castillo told the station. “You’ve got a lot of things here that a lot of people don’t have, that’s respect, that’s freedom.”

    1. Well this veteran fought for his right to sit down and stay quiet if he so chooses, so what now Jo?

      “You’ve got a lot of things here that a lot of people don’t have, that’s respect, that’s freedom.”

      Nice. You are literally free to take orders.

  6. By exercising his first amendment rights to not do and say what the local authority figures wanted him to he was obviously bullying all of the obedient kids around him into questioning their automatic subservience. This obviously falls directly under the zero-tolerance guidelines and therefore he’s lucky that he and his parents were not fined or arrested. Individualism is for deciding which pre-approved outfit or accessories to wear to school, what correct opinions to champion in the student newspaper, and deciding where to do one’e required volunteer work. It should not advocated in this manner by extremely extreme extremists bent on the overthrow of our collective values.

  7. Probably just some domestic terrorist, teabagger’s kid whose family doesn’t support our great president either. /sarc

  8. Good for this kid. He’s going to go far in life.

  9. Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with ti.

  10. it is that no official, high and/or petty

  11. Don’t love your country. It won’t love you back.

  12. If there’s anything the Alamo taught us, it’s follow the ruling authority at all times. Or else.

  13. I attend a lot of school board and other public meetings and it’s amazing how they all start with that fascist crap and how almost everyone just blindly jumps in without thinking about what they are saying. I typically stand so as not to draw attention to myself (I’m trying to sell stuff to them after all), but damned if I will say the words.

    1. “One nation *long pause* under God”

  14. he was “really tired of our government taking advantage of us.” He added, “I basically said it from the time I was in kindergarten”


  15. Michalec explained that he sat as an act of protest because he was “really tired of our government taking advantage of us.” He added, “I basically said it from the time I was in kindergarten to earlier this year, and that’s when I finally decided I was done saying it….I’m angry, frustrated and annoyed that they would try to write me up for something I have the right to do.”

    I have a feeling that progressives aren’t going to turn this kid into a hero. If he’d said ‘I didn’t say the pledge because I’m sick of American imperialism/capitalism/patriarchy’ they would turn him into a martyr for the cause. Unfortunately, he sounds like an icky libertarian and must therefore be considered an unperson.

  16. Same cadence:

    “I pledge allegiance to the the Constitution of the United States of America. And to the Republic which it creates, one nation, fifty states, with liberty and justice for all.”

    I swore something similar when I enlisted.

    … Hobbit

    1. This is what I’ve been saying for decades: I plead elegance to the untitled snakes of a merry cow, and to the Republicans for which they scam, one nacho underground, with lemon tea and pitchers of ice for owls.
      It was on a cartoon I read many years ago but I can’t remember which.

      1. Life In Hell by Matt Groening. He did at least two versions of this particular cartoon, with slightly different versions of the Pledge.

        1. Yes, you are correct! Thanks for helping me remember the source.

    2. I suppose that’s appropriate for someone entering military service. I’m still not pledging allegiance to anything.

  17. There used to be honest liberals.

    No really.

    They’d stand up for constitutional principles like they mattered–because they did matter to them.

    Nowadays, the left is so hostile to the Constitution, it’s hard not be disgusted.

    If Barnette came up today, most of the left would look for reasons to call the Jehovah’s Witnesses racist and then conclude that their rights shouldn’t be respected anyway–since those beliefs are stupid.

    But there used to be honest liberals.

    1. But there used to be honest liberals.

      Sounds like the refrain from a poem or a song.

  18. Gotta love those yeahaw rednecks of Texas.

  19. This boy is about to get a free ride to college, courtesy of a few fascists with teaching certificates.

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