Family of student in Cane Bay Middle School Pledge of Allegiance incident issues statement

Sheriff says deputy did nothing wrong when he asked student to stand for pledge
Published: Nov. 15, 2017 at 3:52 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2017 at 6:23 PM EST
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Sheriff Duane Lewis held a news conference about a kneeling incident during the Pledge of...
Sheriff Duane Lewis held a news conference about a kneeling incident during the Pledge of Allegiance at Cane Bay Middle School. (Source: Live 5)
Source: Live 5
Source: Live 5

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The family of the Cane Bay Middle School student who was told by a Berkeley County deputy to stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance issued a statement about the investigation late Wednesday.

In that statement, the family says the school was the one who filed the original complaint against the officer. The statement does not reveal the identity of the parent or the student and reads as follows:

My Son was involved in a very unfortunate incident on November 3, 2017, in the front office of Cane Bay Middle School. It was the School who filed the original complaint against the Officer for his inappropriate actions, not us. It was filed by the principal on behalf of the school employees who witnessed it. Several days later as we became aware of the facts, we filed a complaint in support of the School's complaint.

The Berkeley County Sheriff's Office told us the matter would take 45 days to review. Today Sheriff Lewis held a press conference to express his opinion on an on-going matter being investigated by his own department and very publicly displaying evidence related to that review.

Our Son's reasons for his actions had nothing to do with patriotism or support of the military or President Trump. The Sheriff's actions today have simply reinforced his reasons for having acted the way he did.

We will wait for the results of the investigation.

A request for comment from the Berkeley County School District about the school filing the complaint against the deputy was not immediately returned.

The Berkeley County Sheriff's Office released redacted surveillance video Wednesday afternoon that showed the deputy's interaction with the student. That video release came hours after Sheriff Duane Lewis said he did not believe the deputy did anything wrong when he asked the child to stand up during the pledge.

Lewis said Wednesday morning his department is actively investigating the incident at Cane Bay Middle School but said they were " a long way from figuring the thing out."

"We are actively investigating the complaint as we do all complaints that come into the Sheriff's Office," he said.

The incident happened at Cane Bay Middle School in Summerville about two weeks ago on Nov. 3, according to Chief Deputy Mike Cochran. Cochran said the child was told by the deputy, a fill-in school resource officer, to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Deputies said the student's parent complained to the sheriff's office after the incident, sparking an internal investigation.

Lewis said the incident was captured on school surveillance cameras and played video for reporters at the news conference. Lewis said the footage shows the deputy had approximately 15 seconds of contact with the student.

"It appears to me this was not a police action that was taken," Lewis said. "The child was not disciplined, he was not taken out of the office, nothing happened to him other than a conversation, a few-second conversation that the deputy had with the student, and that's really what it amounts to."

The video shows the student, a boy, coming into the school's office. Then the deputy comes in. When the Pledge of Allegiance then comes over the loudspeaker, the deputy stands for it and places his hand over his heart. Lewis said everyone was standing when this student sat down. The deputy saw him sit and approached him and asked him to stand, Lewis said.

"It appears he walked over to him and asked him to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance," Lewis said. "He wasn't ordered to, he wasn't made to, we didn't put our hands on him, he was just asked to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. It's that simple."

He said he was not sure whether the deputy knows that state law allows students to refuse to stand for the pledge.

"I can tell you that, personally, you know, I think that there's nothing wrong with that," Lewis said. "We're in these settings and we're in these professions to try to help kids and lead them in the right direction. What happens at home, that's what goes on at home, we have nothing to do with that. I think that, honestly, and this is my personal opinion, a lot of people have died for our freedom and for the freedom of that flag, and I don't think it's too much to ask that people stand up and recognize it. That's my personal opinion."

The sheriff said the conversation the deputy had was "harmless." The deputy is still on duty and Lewis said he did not believe the deputy did anything wrong.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with asking the kid to stand up when you're in a public-funded school, paid for by the taxpayers in this county, to stand up for the flag," Lewis said. "If you don't want to, you don't have to. He was not made to stand up, nobody put their hands on him, there was no discipline, nothing happened. I don't see anything wrong with that."

Lewis said the complaint was that the deputy talked to the student about standing up for the flag. He said the department is in the process of taking statements from everyone involved and expects the investigation to last about a couple of weeks.

The matter will then be reviewed by the office of professional standards.

On Wednesday afternoon, National Action Network spokesman Elder James Johnson said his group, along with the Berkeley County chapter of the network, would monitor the complaint and planned to issue a statement at the end of their investigation.

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