Puerto Rican Teenager Takes a Stand on Island’s Status by Not Taking Part in Pledge of Allegiance

We got another story today from the HuffPost about Enidris Siurano Rodríguez, a 15-year-old 10th grader from Puerto Rico who “decided not to participate during the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag in her Maryland high school, and stayed silent and seated during that time as a way to protest.”

Puerto-rico-culture

The story quotes Siruano:

I did it when I began to understand the current political situation of Puerto Rico,which I do not like,” Siurano told Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día. “I do not agree with the way the United States treats Puerto Rico… I think Puerto Rico has an undemocratic situation, I dislike the idea that a government so far [from the island] tells us what we can and cannot do. ”

Her actions have brought problems with the school’s administration, which she says used “harassment and intimidation” to make her betray her beliefs.

Siruano’s actions have gotten the attention of Ricky Martín and René Pérez of Calle 13:

A local Maryland paper reported that the ACLU defended the teenager’s actions:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has again stepped in to defend a Montgomery County student who refused to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Enidris Siurano-Rodriguez, a sophomore at Damascus High School, should not have been sent to the principal’s office and “harassed” in February after “sitting quietly” during the Pledge, David Rocah, a staff attorney for the local ACLU wrote in a letter Tuesday to Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr, Board of Education President Christopher S. Barclay and Damascus High Principal Robert Domergue.

“It started mid-February in my honors biology class,” Enidris said adding that she has not stood for the Pledge since she was in seventh grade. “The first semester teacher did not say anything, but the second semester teacher, [Deanna Jennings] did.”

Enidris said that when the teacher would ask her to stand she did because she thought she had to respect her, but, later when she learned her rights she realized the teacher had to respect her too and that is when Enidris said the harassment began.

The school district’s official response was also reported:

Montgomery County Public Schools’ policy also affirms the right of students to refuse to participate in the Pledge.

“Our schools do start each day with the Pledge of Allegiance but students are not required to stand or participate,” Dana Tofig, MCPS spokesman wrote in an email to The Gazette.

Tofig also wrote that he is not aware that there is any training for teachers or administrators to address the issue.

Damascus principal Robert Domergue referred calls to Tofig. Jennings said in a phone call Thursday that she had no comment.

“The procedures are very straight-forward: If a student does not want to participate in the Pledge, they do not have to and cannot be compelled to do so,” Tofig wrote.

Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States. In 1898, U.S. troops landed on the island during the Spanish-American War. In 1917, Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens, but Puerto Ricans who live on the island stil lack full rights as U.S. citizens. For example, they cannot vote for President and they have no voting representation in the U.S. Congress.

After a island-wide plebiscite in November led to voters’ rejection of the current status quo, Puerto Rico is starting to get some attention this year in Congress, with reports that a statehood bill will be presented in May. In addition, President Obama’s budget plan calls for another status plebiscite on the island to hopefully put closure to the Puerto Rican status question.

A recent Suffolk University poll revealed that 70% of Puerto Ricans on the island favor statehood.

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