SPRING HILL – An Explorer K8 teacher was suspended after trying to force one of her students to say the Pledge of Allegiance, according to an investigation.
The student, who is Jehovah’s Witness and prohibited by the religion from worshiping objects, refused on religious grounds, the investigation found.
Teacher Anne Daigle-McDonald grabbed the student’s wrist and directed him to do the pledge on Sept. 11, according to the investigation.
“(The parents) reported to me that Ms. McDonald had pulled (the student’s) arm to force him to put his hand on his heart and told him that he is an American and needed to show respect,” Explorer assistant principal Kristina Garofano wrote in the investigation. “(One parent) stated that she had informed Ms. McDonald on the very first day of (the student) attending EK8 that their family were Jehovah’s Witnesses and they did not celebrate holidays.”
The student told McDonald during the incident that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not worship objects, and that he stood during the Pledge of Allegiance out of respect for the country, but was not permitted by his religion to place his hand over his heart, according to the investigation.
After the student informed McDonald of this, McDonald went to the front of the class and said, “If you don’t want to say the pledge, you still have to put your hand on your heart and if you don’t want to do that, you should move out of the country,” according to the report.
The report also shows McDonald said something about there not being a religion that prohibits doing the pledge, according to the investigation.
Several other students in the class corroborated the allegations, according to the investigation.
McDonald was removed from student contact, and placed on alternative assignment on Sept. 12.
While speaking to administrators at the school on that date, McDonald said she thought the religion applied only to holidays, but said she did not attempt to contact the student’s parents for clarification, according to the report.
She also said she did not think it was good practice to regularly place hands on students, and that she feels strongly as a citizen of the United States that one should show respect to the flag, the investigation showed.
Superintendent Lori Romano ordered McDonald be suspended five days without pay, reported the incident to Florida Department of Education and ordered McDonald provide proof of completion of diversity training.