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I’m Calling the “Covington Rule” On This Fake News Headline

It’s irresistible, apparently.

Clickbait headlines about a story from the Tampa suburbs, where an 11-year-old boy was “arrested for causing a disruption” and “refusing repeated instructions” from school staff during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Cue the headlines:

“Florida Student faces charges after refusing to stand for Pledge of Allegiance” (Yahoo! News)

“11 Year Old Arrested After Refusing To Stand for Pledge of Allegiance (NYPost.com)

“Boy Arrested After Resisting ‘Racist’ Pledge” (USAToday)

Nope. You don’t get arrested for not reciting the pledge. Check Polk County Public School rules, state of Florida law, and SCOTUS’ West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943). It’s a First Amendment right to sit it out.

You might get arrested if you yell, scream, make threats and so forth. Did this boy do that? Seems he barked back about the pledge with his substitute teacher.  I’m not too impressed with a classroom teacher who would sink to the level of arguing with one of her students, and neither is the school district. They’ve already canned her.

(Side note: I think we were much better off when teachers and principals disciplined unruly students. I’m not a fan of turning these incidents into police calls.)

Here’s where the Covington Rule comes in:

The headline writers all ignore the facts in their own stories—that he was actually arrested for “causing a disruption”. But how big a headline, or even a story, is that?! Not national, for sure. Not clickbait.

Make him a junior Kaepernick, though, and—hello “Trending News”!

The Covington Rule, which I made up, is that we don’t project our adult political differences onto kids. Adults should do their political mudwrestling with other adults. Not with kids.

Maybe the kid’s wrong. Maybe the teacher’s wrong. Or the school.

But you know who’s definitely wrong here?

The headline writers.


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