A school in Atlanta has announced it will no longer recite the Pledge of Allegiance as part of its morning meeting agenda, claiming that the Pledge is not “inclusive” or “positive” enough.
According to the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, the Pledge of Allegiance, which is an expression of allegiance to the flag and the republic of the United States of America, will be replaced by the school’s “Wolf Pack Chant,” which pledges allegiance to “global society” among other things.
The charter school announced the change Tuesday in a statement from elementary campus president Lara Zelski.
The decision was made “in an effort to begin our day as a fully inclusive and connected community,” Zelski said. “Over the past couple of years it has become increasingly obvious that more and more of our community were choosing to not stand and/or recite the pledge.”
“There are many emotions around this and we want everyone in our school family to start their day in a positive manner. After all, that is the whole purpose of our morning meeting,” Zelski said.
Students will be given the opportunity to say the pledge at another point during the school day and they will continue to be asked to stand to participate in the school’s Wolf Pack Chant each morning, according to the statement.
“Teachers and the K-5 leadership team will be working with students to create a school pledge that we can say together at morning meeting,” Zelski said.
The Wolf Pack Pledge, she said, “will focus on students’ civic responsibility to their school family, community, country and our global society.”
AJC reports: An early morning online headline about her move said the pledge had been “eliminated” from the morning ritual. The story mentioned moving the pledge to a later time, but political news sites seized on the word “elimination” in the headline, which caused an uproar.
An email to parents from the schools’ executive director noted that the school leadership had heard from parents, some who understand the move and some who don’t.
The Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School is a K-8 charter school with two campuses formed by the merger of two charter schools that have been operating in the Grant Park and Ormewood Park neighborhoods since 2002.
Zelski also added that teachers and the K-5 leadership team will also work with students to create a school pledge “that we can say together at morning meeting. This pledge will focus on students’ civic responsibility to their school family, community, country and our global society.”
Metro school districts are consistent on guidelines regarding the Pledge of Allegiance, which is in line with Georgia Department of Education policy.
“Each school day, at the beginning of the school day or during the homeroom period, students at the State Schools shall be afforded the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” it reads.
Those who choose to not participate don’t have to, it adds.
Districts across metro Atlanta abide by both aspects of the policy – doing the pledge and the right to not participate.
Superintendent Morcease J. Beasley of Clayton County said: “Students are offered the opportunity to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. If they choose to participate or not is their individual and constitutional right and the reason the flag of the United States of America exists. Anything that removes their right to choose to participate as their conscience dictates, in my opinion, is un-American and immoral.”
Other counties also recognize the right to refuse to take the pledge.
Cobb and Gwinnett County public schools, students aren’t required to recite it, spokeswomen said.
If they choose not to participate, they must not be disruptive, per school policy, the spokeswomen said.
Controversy over reciting the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t new.
In 1943, the United States Supreme Court confirmed that students in public schools have a right to not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. At the time, the West Virginia Board of Education required all public school teachers and students to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Two students, Gathie and Marie Barnett, refused to participate, stating that it violated their personal beliefs and religion, and were expelled. They brought a suit, along with other students who had refused, which finally ended up at the US Supreme Court. In a 6-3 vote, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to compel students to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, according to the National Youth Rights Association.
More recently, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided that requiring parental permission in order opt out of the pledge does not violate the rights of young people. In Frazier v. Winn (2009), the Court concluded that “the state’s interest in recognizing and protecting the rights of parents on some educational issues is sufficient to justify the restriction of some students’ freedom of speech.”
Some school systems, such as Henry County, let students opt out with parental approval only.