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Trinity Elementary School Reverse Course: Pledge of Allegiance No Longer "Optional"

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Trinity Elementary School Reverse Course: Pledge of Allegiance No Longer "Optional"

April 28, 2009 - 23:10
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74ED5C8E-F6E2-4BD6-AE1C-A64A0D962DFE.jpgTrinity Elementary School in New Rochelle, NY has reversed course on its decision to give teachers the option whether or not to have their classes recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of each school day. For as long as anyone can remember, reciting the Pledge was part of the "morning announcements" over the school's public address system. Teachers and students in every classroom stood and recited the pledge together. Under the guise of "efficiency" the school changed the morning announcement routine, doing away with the Pledge of Allegiance, and leaving it up to teachers to decide whether or not to recite the pledge. Reports from the school indicate that some teachers opted not to recite the pledge in their class while some did so intermittently. After an outcry from some parents and residents, including here on Talk of the Sound, the school district beat a hasty retreat and reinstated the traditional policy within 24 hours of the story surfacing on Talk of the Sound.

The Pledge of Allegiance has become a source of some controversy at Trinity Elementary School over the past several years as the demographics of the school have shifted to become predominantly hispanic, with a large number of the students coming from families of recent immigrants. According to the most recent New York State School Report Card, hispanic or Latino students now compromise 48% of the student population although sources within district privately admit that figure is probably higher, above 50%. Overall the school is 81% "minority" students as white families have opted to send their children to private or parochial schools.

Although the issue has apparently been put to rest (sort of), it is worthy of a post for many reasons. One obvious reason is that people continue to discuss it. Another not so obvious is the power of parental/community involvement in addressing issues affecting the education of our children. We are referring to the discussion that began on Talk of the Sound about the temporary replacement of school wide morning announcements over the Public Address System at Trinity Elementary School, for some sort of computerized message board. From what we were told, since morning announcements were temporarily replaced by the computerized message board a on a trial basis, the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance became the responsibility of individual classroom teachers.

One of the Talk of the Sound Readers submitted the following e-mail:

Here is an email from late
Submitted by Anonymous on Mon, 04/27/2009 - 17:38.

Here is an email from late this afternoon --

Date: Monday, April 27, 2009, 3:07 PM

As per a number of member's input, I hope this is helpful. Thank you for everyone's prompt attention to this matter. PTA members are heard and do make a difference.

...

Dear Colleagues; Good morning one and all. I am writing at this time to let you know that effective tomorrow, April 28th we will once again have our announcements over the Public Address System. We have been utilizing the computerized message board for the past few weeks in an attempt to limit the interruptions in class instruction time. Yet, it appears that we are hearing from students, parents and staff that there is a lack of uniformity related to these announcements and it is causing some gaps in information that we need to get to these three constituent groups. Additionally, there are some very strong feelings on the part of people that saying the Pledge in class is not as effective as saying it as a school together. I have suggested to both the building reps and the administration moving forward that this topic be one of continued exploration. There are many excellent suggestions that need to be further explored such as having announcements at a different time of day. After 18 years as a building administrator, I can assure you this is a common issue in all schools. I appreciate the dialogue that has taken place as we worked collaboratively to ease the issues surrounding announcements. However, beginning tomorrow morning we will go back to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and doing announcements via the P. A.

Richard A. McMahon
Interim Principal
Trinity Elementary School of Communication Arts and Technology
180 Pelham Road
New Rochelle, New York 10805
1-914-576-4440 (Fax- 1-914-576-4266)

You may read previous comments posted here(click here) or add your own comments on the issue below this post.

There are 13 Comments

'the power of parental / community involvement in addressing issues affecting the education of our children.'

To NCRP, I like that line from your post, so much, that I think it bears repeating.
In addition, I think the reason people continue to discuss this issue is because parents only recently found out about it (even though it had been in effect 'for the past few weeks'). They didn't get to voice any concerns or be a part of the process. Fortunately, they can do that here.

Brace yourself, if you speak up. It is not easy. Be prepared to stay the course despite resistance. But know you have support even though it may not be open and obvious.

Now we all have to be on principal watch. Who will we get? I hope it is someone with lots of principal experience from a big school, rather than a person who is becoming a principal for the first time. I hope we get someone who has experience with a big school, that has a stake in the area.

I heard from a school district person that there were 14 great candidates with top notch resumes. Then I heard from a Trinity parent that it was all slim pickins. I heard also that the principal selection committee is done. But they can not share the contents of their meetings.

During the past 7 years there have been 4 different principles at Trinity School. That averages out to a new principal every 21 months. It is a fact that 2 (if not 3) of those 4 had never been a principal before.
My question to the powers that be is the following, has the selection of a principal been completed and if so, can parents rest assured that the BEST selection has been made based on the candidate’s past experience as a principal? In addition to experience, strength in leadership and communication skills are a MUST. Please, after 7 years, this is our chance to get it right. And, in a last ditch effort, is there no way to keep Mr. McMahon?

Just an FYI -

The synchronized Pledge Across America is conducted each year on September 17th - Constitution Day. Pledge Across America is the nationally synchronized recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. In 2001 shortly after September 11 the President of the United States and the United States Secretary of Education and both the United States Senate and House of Representatives joined over 52 million students in the synchronized Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. September 17, 2008 marked the 17th year the Pledge Across America took place, and it also marked 117 years since Francis Bellamy wrote and first recited the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892.

The Pledge to the Flag should be a personal choice and not a mandate. To do so contradicts our Constitution and legal opinion:

"Words uttered under coercion are proof of loyalty to nothing but self-interest," wrote Justices Hugo Black and William O. Douglas in a concurring opinion. "Love of country must spring from willing hearts and free minds, inspired by a fair administration of wise laws enacted by the people's elected representatives within the bounds of express constitutional prohibitions."

West Virginia State Board of Education, et al. v. Walter Barnette, et al.(1943)

Robert Cox's picture

You are quite the legal scholar...not.

For those who are not here is Wikipedia's take on the case:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Virginia_State_Board_of_Education_v._B...

With the facts of the case available via the Wikipedia article, please anon explain how the District policy of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Constitution. If you are care to read the facts of the case you will see that the West Virginia law at the heart of the case treated a failure to salute the flag or say the pledge as an act of insubordination to be punished accordingly. That is not the case here.

No one is being punished for not saying the Pledge and so there is no coercion involved. A student has the right not to salute or recite the pledge but that does not mean the school district is prohibited from reciting the pledge over the PA system and have the students in each class recite the pledge at the same time.

By your logic, reciting the pledge would be ILLEGAL in a public school. Does that actually make sense to you? If so, please take a few more of whatever pills were prescribed to you by your doctor and lie down.

The New York State Law regarding the Pledge of Allegiance:
The relevant statute requires an unelaborated daily recitation of the Pledge.
N.Y. Educ. Law § 802 (2005).

Last I checked New Rochelle is in New York State not West Virginia. The school is obligated by law. If a child comes home and a parent asks if the Pledge was recited and the answer is 'No.', then the teacher and the school would be in violation of the law. Each state has their own laws.

(this reply is in response to Anonymous on Wed, 04/29/2009 - 13:00)

And, as Mr. Cox pointed out below, of course, no child could or would be punished.

Here is the Statute for West Virginia in case you are interested:
“Every instructional day in the public schools of this state shall be commenced with a Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. Pupils who do not wish to participate in this exercise shall be excused from making such Pledge.” W. Va. Code § 18-5-15b (2005).

Robert Cox's picture

I am smiling.

This discussion about the Pledge is a great example of how a community site like this one is supposed to work.

One reader surfaced the issue, others chimed in, someone posted the email from the principal, another cited the Supreme Court case, others placed that decision in context by links and examples.

Jeff Jarvis from City of University of New York J School calls this "networked journalism' where stories are written from the bottom up through online collaboration. I hope we can see more of this.

Great Job!

Mr. Cox, you really should be smiling. You have filled a long-neglected need in this community. One that even a local newspaper hasn’t managed to fill. There are many ‘hyper-local’ news sites springing-up, as I’m sure you are aware. But since, I love New Rochelle (iheartnewro), I’m partial to this one. :-)

Great job to you, too!

not standing when ordered to pledge allegiance to the flag IS punishable at NRHS. As Mr. Conetta.

See the Flag Code:
Section 4 of the Flag Code states:
The Pledge of Allegiance... "should be rendered by standing..."
You cannot be 'ordered to pledge', I'm assuming this is a NRHS student? Kudos to Mr. Conetta.

At the May 4th PTA meeting, the pledge of allegiance topic was discussed. Here is a piece of the meeting minutes --

"Pledge of Allegiance
• There was a 2 week trial basis where the pledge of allegiance was being recited in the classroom, leaving it up to the teacher’s responsibility to choose a time to pledge.
• There were many comments/concerns by parents, teachers and staff who were
not happy with the individual classroom pledge. Some classrooms recited on a daily basis
and some did not.
• The Pledge of Allegiance is back to being recited as a whole school over the public announcement system every morning.
• Parents were reminded that the start of school begins at 8:27am and children should
arrive promptly. When a child comes to school late it disrupts classroom teaching time."

It really was exciting that the parents spoke up and got results so quickly. The immediacy of the reaction was amazing.

The 2008-2009 City School District Calendar on page 2 shows school hours as being: 8:27 am for the first bell and 8:45 am as the start of the first session.
When did this change and were parents notified? I was under the impression that 8:30 was on time.

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