FCPS Superintendent removes teacher, says he violated policy in forcing student to stand for pledge

CENTREVILLE, Va. - The Superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools says he removed a teacher for violating an existing and long-standing policy involving students who refuse to participate or recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

The announcement comes after an incident back in November, according to Maxwelle Sokol, an attorney with Victor M. Glasberg & Associates, helping the student's parents consider their legal options.

"He's been sitting for the pledge since eighth grade and this kind of came out of nowhere, in his words, he didn’t see it coming," she says.

Sokol says 15-year-old student Eric Trammel, a sophomore, remained seated during the Pledge of Allegiance in his Driver's Education Class at Centreville High School, taught by Richard Ferrick.

According to Eric, Ferrick ordered him to stand up, and when he refused, he pulled Eric by the arm and sent him outside.

Erick told Sokol he stood outside and was told he could not return to the classroom unless he stood for the pledge.

"I think it’s always important to protect the First Amendment free speech rights, as well as this case implicates the equal protection clause, which says you can’t treat people differently based on their race," says Sokol. "The teacher said something along the lines, 'this isn’t the NFL.'"

Sokol says Eric had his own reasons for not standing with the pledge, the Black Lives Matter movement a part of his inspiration.

"The racist origins of the person who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance was an out and proud racist who advocated segregation," she says. "That is the basis of his sitting for the pledge and the most important part of this for him."

Students told DCW50 Ferrick was also an assistant football coach.

In a statement, his attorney, James K. Freeman, said:

"Mr. Ferrick has been a teacher with an impeccable record of service to Fairfax County Public Schools for over 32 years.  The allegations against him are misleading and without merit.”

Superintendent Scott Braband did not name the teacher in his statement, but said that the incident at Centreville was unacceptable behavior and launched a thorough investigation by his office.

"FCPS has apologized to the student and the student’s family for the incident.

The policy is very clear.  It states, in part, “…no student shall be subjected to unfavorable comment or stigmatization of his or her decision to participate or abstain from the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Nonparticipating students are expected to sit quietly, or to stand silently if they want, during the Pledge and to engage in no disrupting or distracting activity. No disciplinary sanction may be imposed for refusal to participate in saying the Pledge; however, willful disruption or interference with the exercise of pledging allegiance by others may result in the same disciplinary measures accorded to other instances of classroom disruption in school.”

At my direction, a reminder of this policy was sent earlier this school year to all principals and a reminder of the policy was sent to all FCPS staff earlier this week.  For your awareness,  we have had instances in which other students in other schools have chosen not to participate in the Pledge and, in each case, the classroom teacher and school administration have followed the policy and responded in an appropriate manner."