Students will recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Saline Area Schools classrooms each day if a new policy is adopted by the district’s Board of Education in October.
The district’s policy committee met Wednesday and agreed to recommend changes to existing policy, which allows for the pledge but does not require it. The new policy would require “patriotic exercises” to open the day or at a time to be determined by the principal. Patriotic activities include the pledge and can also include patriotic songs and readings of historic material for the purpose of developing moral values, patriotism and higher standards of conduct. The amended policy also provides students more reasons to opt out of reciting the pledge. Existing policy gives students permission to opt out for religious purposes. The proposed policy gives students permission to opt out for any reason.
The policy committee, composed of board trustees Chuck Lesch, Todd Carter and David Holden, discussed the issue for about 25 minutes. The issue also came up at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Currently the pledge is recited in the elementary schools but not at the high school or middle school, said Holden, who brought the idea to the board of education in January.
“It drops off at the middle school and high school. It shouldn’t lose any significance at that point,” Holden said.
Much of the change in the policy comes from changing the word “may” to “shall.” Holden said the change is necessary to achieve the desired effect.
“We have the word ‘may’ in there now, and it’s not being done. If we don’t put the word ‘shall’ in there, we might as well leave it the same,” Holden said. “If we’re going to do policy, it shouldn’t be a halfway policy. Policy should be clear.”
Carter asked the committee and Superintendent Scot Graden what kind of results might be expected.
Both Holden and Lesch said it was possible high school students sitting down during the pledge. Holden said he thought some teachers may have a level of discomfort with the plan.
Graden said he would want the opportunity to meet with principals to start working on a plan to implement the program. Implementation could be more difficult at the high school, with the various schedules. Holden suggested rotating the activity from hour to hour.
Here is the text of the proposed policy:
Classrooms shall open the school day, or at another time as designated by the building Principal, with appropriate exercises. Such shall include the pledge to the flag, and may include 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 an 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.
The policy will be reviewed by the district’s attorney before it heads to the board for discussion and a vote during the first meeting in October.
Here is the existing policy:
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.