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More in News
District considering pledge mandate
OXFORD HILLS -- Should the school board mandate a daily Pledge of Allegiance in area schools?
The SAD 17 school board's Policy Committee has taken up the question, after parent Diane Cummings began making noise about the fact that the pledge is recited on a weekly, rather than daily, basis at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School (OHCHS).
The policy committee initiated a fact-gathering phase last week in order to make up a decision on the issue, but Cummings says that she is not satisfied with the committee's response.
"Not at all," she said, a few days after the committee had made its decision. "I didn't sleep all night. They say that they think it's right, but not enough to change it that night. That's fine and dandy, but they didn't change it."
The committee decided to circulate a survey to the students of the high school, as well as gather more information before making a recommendation to the full board.
In the school's current written policy on flag displays, the board “requires that on appropriate occasions in every school, the Pledge of Allegiance is to be recited by all students and staff.”
There is no specification as to how often a pledge might be deemed appropriate. The committee determined that the policy itself should not be changed, but that the change could be implemented by amending the school's administrative guidelines.
The policy allows students to opt out of the pledge by submitting a written request.
Ryan Bolduc, a sophomore at OHCHS, said that students at the school would support a daily recitation.
"You could go around and ask kids at the high school," said Bolduc. "Either they would greatly enjoy doing it, or if they didn't want to do it, they woudln't have any complaints about it."
Bolduc said that the current policy was inadequate to honor the country's soldiers.
"When you only say it once out of the week, once for every five days you could say it, it's almost disrespectful." he said, "because they [soldiers] aren't working just one day out of every week."
The issue represents a tiny part of the educational picture that is governed by the policy committee, but to the community members who attended, the matter has deep emotional and religious undertones.
Cummings, who has a son serving in the armed forces in Afghanistan, is the first to admit that she is passionate about the issue.
"I don't like slow," she said. "I'm willing to go down there with a flag and lead the kids in a pledge of allegiance myself. I'm that crazy."
Diane's mother, Sheila Strayer, said she was "very proud to say the pledge of allegiance, and to the flag 'under God' — that's where this country is going wrong. We have to get back to God. If we don't, it's all over. It's all over."
Cummings said that she sees it as a question of morality.
"It's the right thing to do," she said. "There's no other way around it,"
"When this all came about, when I first saw the article in the paper, I was shocked that the pledge of allegiance was only being said over the intercom on Monday mornings at the hgih school," said Jackie Fanning, a community member.
The issue has created rumors among the student body that the district is trying to do away with the pledge.
Student Aeron Roberts, who plans to enter the service on June 20, said that he had heard that the committee was removing the pledge altogether.
Principal Ted Moccia said that he has received emails that have questioned his patriotism.
"I think that there's some personal thoughts or pieces that have come up that are very concerning to me that I'm not patriotic or that I don't support my country or my flag," said Moccia. "I 100 percent support the flag and what it stands for."
Moccia attempted to dispel perceptions that the school is somehow unpatriotic.
"There are people up here who have children who have served. I invite recruiters into my building nonstop," said Moccia. "A life and service to country is a good thing, and I've supported that all along. Our guidance counselors support that."
During the discussion on the issue, policy committee members said that the frequency of the pledge was a small component of a larger issue about patriotism.
"Have you had courses at the school explains the pledge, the background, the meaning of the phrases and so forth, or are you just saying the pledge?" Committee Chair William Colbath asked Aeron Roberts, a student in attendance.
Roberts said that the meaning behind the pledge had been exhaustively explained to him in fifth grade, and also said that the meaning of the words was self-evident.
"The real issue for me is what are we doing to instill patriotism?" said Superientendent Rick Colpitts. "If saying the pledge daily is one way to do that, then I think the administrative team ought to look at that."
Daily vs. Weekly
Moccia said that he had inherited a weekly recitation. "Past practice has been, well before I became principal, it was said at the beginning of the week to set a tone, a tone of respect."
Moccia said that he was open to hearing a discussion on a daily pledge.
"This idea that we need to do it every day to show that support, I don't know where I stand with that," he said. "I'm listening and I'm trying to get information tonight to see what people have to say, how people feel. I believe we're trying to show that respect to our country at the beginning of the week and have done that...I think we've got a nice situation where people are respectful and do that."
Colpitts said that the issue of patriotism in the schools is not necessaarily tied to the frequency of the pledge.
"Frankly, if you said that saying the pledge was going to build patriotism, then why aren't we doing it every class?" he asked rhetorically. "Would that not build a stronger patriot if we did it five times a day, or four times a day? I don't think that any of you would stand there and say that's reasonable. My issue is how do we teach patriotism. What practices can we put in place that support patriotism?"
Several days after the meeting, Cummings said that she doesn't want to wait weeks or months for a resolution.
"Things are pretty black and white to me," said Cummings. "And for once, they're in the black."
Diane's husband William Cummings said that they are encouraging community members to attend the next meeting of the board.
"I'd like to send an invitation to the community to show up and support what we're trying to do," he said.
The issue is not scheduled to be addressed at the next board meeting, but Cummings said that she would like to use the citizen's comments section of the meeting to demonstrate support for changing the policy.