TRACY (CBS SF) – A high school student in Tracy said he has been given detention and docked points in his speech and debate class for omitting “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

According to CBS 13 in Sacramento, an assignment in the speech and debate class required all students to lead West High School in the pledge 12 times a year.

17-year-old Derek Giardina went along with the assignment, reading the 1954 version of the Pledge of Allegiance his first two times. But on the third occasion, he left out “under God” from his reading.

“Personally, I wouldn’t say the pledge at all, because I’m not necessarily very patriotic, and I’m not religious,” Giardina said.

The senior said he’s agnostic, hence his decision to leave “under God” out of the pledge. But then, he found out his grade in the class had been docked. “I think I have a low C now, from doing other speeches, but it is a very large point value,” Giardina said.

He also said that he was warned if he omitted the phrase again, he would be in trouble. He did just that, and consequently was punished with detention.

Tracy Unified School District spokesperson Sam Strube said that while school leaders respect all students’ rights not to recite the pledge, Giardina was disciplined because it was part of an assignment. “A public forum where you’re going to represent the school is not a place where you can voice a controversial issue and force that on other people,” Strube said. He adds that if students did not want to do the assignment, there was an alternative offered.

Giardina said he’s been told he will no longer be able to do announcements.

Meanwhile, the American Humanist Association has sent a letter to the Tracy Unified School District saying Giardina was told by school staff that the law required the pledge be recited with the phrase “under God.” The group said that is not true and is a violation of his constitutional rights.

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