Mandating the National Anthem in Alabama Classrooms


Lily Hughes, Writer

As the new year began, Gerald H. Allen decided that the 2020 Legislation Session, starting February 4, would be the perfect time to file a bill mandating the national anthem in K-12 AL classrooms. The bill, SB 13, would require that “The Star-Spangled Banner” be played “…at the commencement of each school-sanctioned sporting event and at least once per week at each public K-12 school during school hours.” The bill’s requirement for sporting events has been a long-standing norm, while the new addition of the national anthem in classrooms has left students and faculty bewildered. Out of 49 students, 57% can’t pinpoint whether or not the bill infringes with the 1st Amendment, which protects freedom of speech, religion, and the press, as well as the right to assemble and to petition the government. 

With the idea of another layer of excessive patriotism added to the weekly schedule, students such as Ashlee Sunderman, a Bob Jones senior, fight for a reality check. She states, “at a certain point you have to step back and look at the motivations behind a bill like this; ‘patriotism’ is often an attractive mask hiding the truth. There is no need to bring the national anthem into our classrooms, so there should not be a bill trying to do just that.” A clear divide between national pride and class time is a necessary line that has yet to be made. Is playing such an overdone song really the best way to spend precious school hours? Some students say yes. 

A handful of those interviewed found themselves in an uproar of passion, debating that a chance at patriotism is just what this school system needs. Sean Huh, a senior at Bob Jones, argues that “it is not infringing on any rights of students in respect to religion, sex, age, or ethnicity. Every student is reserved the right to not have to stand / participate in any activity such as the Pledge, or in this case the Star Spangled Banner.” He even goes as far as clarifying the basic rights a student carries with them into class, clarifying that, “each student’s Civil Liberties are not stripped away as they enter the school….Therefore it does not infringe on rights and should be passed as a gateway to a more patriotic school system.” With such retraction from the unity the U.S. once had we can use all the help, we can get to join together, even if that means a Tuesday sing along. 

However, there is a concern for those the bill doesn’t mention. In 2019 an eleven-year-old boy was faced with charges after refusing to stand for the Pledge, exercising his right to remain seated for the duration. He told his substitute teacher that the flag was offensive to black people and “racist,” which he refused to support through participation. The substitute proceeded to tell the sixth-grader to go live somewhere else if living was “so bad here.” The question I am left with is this: will the SB 13 bill protect students from discrimination for not participating in whatever lengths the school takes this potential new tradition? The national anthem has also been criticized for its racist background, how will this be handled in classrooms? The safety of students should be held above all else. If including a song in the morning routine causes more young children to suffer under scrutiny for the beliefs, is that going to be overlooked again?