The Saline Area Schools policy committee meets at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to take up language to that could require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or perform other patriotic exercises each day. (Vote in Our Poll.)
The issue was first brought to the board Board of Education by Trustee David Holden in January and was put on the backburner when it was learned the state legislature was taking up related legislation. At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Holden said the state is not moving forward with the legislation and, based on conversations he’d had with board members, it was the will of the school board to move forward won the issue.
“I hope to have the policy committee take a look at the language and bring it back to the board in two weeks,” said Holden.
Board President Lisa Slawson cautioned Holden about speaking for the board’s willingness to move forward on the issue. She said she’d like to consult an attorney about the practice and learn more about the practices of other Michigan school districts. Slawson said she would like to know more about the ramifications of the practice.
“What do we do if a student refuses? What ramifications are there for teachers to police this? What ramifications are there for administrators if teachers choose not to police this?” Slawson asked.
Trustee Craig Hoeft said he supported the idea of having students recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
“This is a great country where people have the opportunity to do whatever they want. Taking 12-15 seconds a day to say the Pledge isn’t too much to ask for that opportunity,” Hoeft said. “I say we get this to policy committee and move forward.”
Trustee Todd Carter said he thought a daily reciting of the Pledge might bring with it a measure of respect in students.
“This might be a step toward getting chivalry back in schools…and promote respect for country and for people who are different,” Carter said.
Slawson said she doesn’t believe Saline students lack respect.
“We have some of the finest young students in, not only the state, but in the United States,” Slawson said.
There was some discussion about what was being proposed. Here is the existing language:
Classrooms may open the school day with appropriate exercises. Such may include the pledge to the flag, patriotic songs, and reading of excerpts of material, which will implement the development of moral values, patriotism, and high standards of conduct. A student who expresses a religious objection to repeating the pledge to the flag shall not be required to participate. However, such students shall not cause a disturbance or interfere with the participation of others.
One option is to change the word “may” to "shall".
Trustee Dave Zimmer said a new policy wouldn’t change very much in the schools, noting that patriotic exercises can include reading the Declaration of Independence or works by Thomas Paine.
“Teachers have been doing this in the district for years. It’s not a major deal,” Zimmer said.
Holden said he knew the Pledge of Allegiance can be a controversial issue.
“I am looking at the back end of the Pledge of Allegiance, which says, ‘with liberty and justice for all,’” Holden said. “That message augments what we’re trying to teach and it serves as a daily reminder.”
Slawson said it was unclear if the board was considering a “patriotic exercise” policy or “Pledge of Allegiance” policy.
Zimmer said the distinction could be made at policy committee.