For The Pledge Spencer Michels looks at the debate over the phrase
"under God" in the pledge of allegiance.
Alter Student Rights
Some important legal decisions made in the last few weeks could change life for millions of students when they return to school this fall.
School administrators are already assessing what key court rulings on school vouchers, random drug testing and the possible removal of the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance will mean for public school students.
Victory for Vouchers
Before closing the 2001-2002 session in June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions concerning student rights.
The first case involved a program in Ohio that issued school vouchers. Vouchers are coupons parents can use to help pay for private or religious schools.
Vouchers are usually given to student families in areas where public schools are in poor condition. The families can apply voucher money to tuition at a better school.
Opponents say the
program violates the First Amendment to the Constitution, which says
government cannot establish, or support, a religion. Critics think vouchers
paid for with taxpayer money should not be used to send students to
From Football to Flute
Another Supreme Court decision on student rights involved the case of Lindsey Earls, an Oklahoma high school student who competed on an academic quiz team and sang in the school choir.
She sued her school after they asked her to take a random drug test as a requirement to participate in after-school activities. She said the school drug testing policy was humiliating and violated her right to privacy.
By one vote, the High Court said schools could test all students involved in an activity or team that may participate in any type of competition -- from the football team to the debate team. A majority of the justices said the ability of schools to discourage drug use was more important than an individual student's right to privacy.
I Pledge Allegiance...
Another legal decision dealing with school life came from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California.
Atheist Michael Newdow said his eight-year-old daughter should not have to say the phrase "one nation, under God" with her class every day.
Like the school voucher case, he felt the pledge violated the constitutional separation of church and state and took his case to court.
After some consideration, two of the three judges on the appeals court agreed with Newdow that reciting the pledge was an unconstitutional "endorsement of religion" and therefore declared the pledge itself to be in violation of the Constitution.
The court's decision was not popular. Following a wave of criticism, the judge who wrote the decision put it on hold. Many expect that the ruling will be overturned in later hearings.
However, if the ruling is not thrown out, it would become unconstitutional to recite the pledge in schools in nine states.
Newdow doesn't plan to stop at the pledge. He told reporters that he would also like to challenge the constitutionality of having the phrase "In God We Trust" printed on U.S. money.
-- Contributed by Maureen Hoch, Online NewsHour
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