The public school system is the major American social institution responsible for the transmission of our democratic heritage to present and future generations. In fulfilling this responsibility, the schools often confront problems involving their duty to inculcate students with a sense of patriotism. Probably the most controversial questions have concerned compulsory flag saluting and participation in patriotic exercises. Can a school demand that students salute the flag?
Questions such as this arise under circumstances where students, allegedly exercising First Amendment rights, clash with school authorities engaged in the promulgation and enforcement of school rules. This interplay of educational order and students’ rights, and the multi-faceted questions which arise therefrom, have been the subject of several recent court cases which raise once again, usually with significant extension of underlying principles, questions that gained national prominence on the eve of World War II.
William A. Kaplin, Flag Salute, Patriotic Exercises, and Students’ Rights, 44 CONTEMP. EDUC. 84 (1972).