Students Need To Know More About Presidential Seal Misuse

East uses seals that look like the Presidential Seal on podiums like this one.

Asher Boiskin

East uses seals that look like the Presidential Seal on podiums like this one.

This article, though factual, is meant to be satirical. 

18 U.S. Code § 713 states that it is illegal to use the Presidential Seal unless with prior approval from the President of the United States. Those who break the misuse the seal can face both fines and imprisonment. Despite what some may claim, this is not an archaic, ridiculous and unenforceable law that should be removed. 

Those who view the law as laughable fail to see its importance. As we all know, there is no way to tell an unapproved presidential seal on a presentation for class from something that the President personally approved. Anytime I see the Presidential Seal, I wonder how many hoops the person or group using it had to jump through to get a meeting with Joe Biden to get its usage approved. 

Misuse of the presidential seal could also dangerously hurt the country. A nefarious group could send a declaration of war, with the presidential seal, to the government of Canada, and Canada, thinking an invasion was imminent, might attack the United States. That group would, in the words of the law, “convey a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States”. If the Canadian government believed the seal to be official, they might take it seriously. However, under 18 U.S. Code § 713, this disaster scenario can be prevented.

The violation of this law in schools can especially have negative consequences. The United States saw about 1,993 property crimes for every 100,000 citizens in 2021, according to Statista. Illegal usage of Presidential Seals is the clear culprit for such a high crime rate. After all, if a young person sees a school or another government-controlled organization illegally using the seal, they might think it is okay to break laws in general. This pattern of thinking most definitely harms society. 

I decided to do a little experiment in my AP US History I course to see what my classmates knew about the seal and 18 U.S. Code § 713. I showed some of my them a photograph of the presidential seal with the phrase “James Madison was the best founding father.” Shockingly, instead of them being outraged at me for breaking the law and immediately calling the proper authorities, they just stared at me. When I informed my classmates about the law I was breaking, they seemed indifferent, confused, and concerned for my sanity. However, one educated citizen at least had the decency to tell me that I should be locked up.

“You deserve to go to jail,” Soryu Vertrini (‘25) told me. 

The experiment I conducted in my AP US History I course taught me something valuable: people do not know US laws enough. Luckily, however, the solution to this problem is simple. To keep our school community safe from criminal activity and to uphold federal law, East should place posters around the school that display information about 18 U.S. Code § 713.