Michigan Legislature Mandates Flag and Pledge of Allegiance

   On October 5, 2012, Governor Snyder signed Public Acts 320 and 321, which amended the Revised School Code to require that schools: (1) erect and maintain U.S. flags on school premises; (2) display flags in classrooms; and (3) provide students with a daily opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Public Act 320 added section 1347 to the School Code and mandates that schools erect a U.S. flag staff on each public school building or in a conspicuous place on school grounds and ensure that a U.S. flag is displayed in each classroom or other instructional site.

Public Act 321 added section 1347a to the School Code and requires that public schools, beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, provide students with an opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States each school day. Section 1347a prohibits disciplining a student for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and requires that school officials ensure that students are not bullied for refusing to recite the Pledge. This provision is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1943 decision in West Virginia v Barnette, in which the Court held, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

The Legislature did not increase funding to pay for the new flags and flag staffs, thus implicating the Headlee Amendment’s prohibition against unfunded mandates. Indeed, both the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies have noted that the new law imposes increased costs on schools. The new laws become effective 91 days after the adjournment of the 2012 regular legislative session.