It’s a familiar scene in classrooms across the nation: Students start the day by standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while facing the American flag in the classroom.
Almost as common is the controversy over whether schools should force young people to stand or say the Pledge. Some states have repealed laws that allow schools to force students, while other states have reinforced such laws.
The Ohio Revised Code (section 3313.602) calls for the state’s schools to establish a policy specifying whether or not the Pledge will be part of the school’s program. However, Ohio law also states that neither a school’s policy nor an individual teacher “can require students to participate in the recitation and shall prohibit the intimidation of any student by other students or staff aimed at coercing participation.”
A personal responsibility?
At Fairmont High School, students are led to recite the Pledge at the beginning of each week. In most advisories, students willingly follow along. Even if students don’t recite the Pledge, they remain silent and respectful while others do.
Still, some people feel saying the Pledge of Allegiance shows appreciation for their country, and they think forcing students to recite it isn’t such a bad idea.
Fairmont senior Tommy Kimbrell believes standing for the Pledge every Monday morning should take place across the nation. “I think students should be forced to say the Pledge. Our country gives a lot to keep us safe and gives us every opportunity to succeed, and students should show thanks by saying the Pledge,” said Kimbrell.
But others see it as a responsibility that shouldn’t have to be forced. “Having schools strongly recommend that students need to stand up and pledge to our country is one thing, but I don’t believe that they should have such authority to actually force students to say it,” said junior Brandi Fielek.
Fairmont Principal Dan VonHandorf believes that starting the week reciting the Pledge shows appreciation for the country. “It reflects our mission statement by creating contributing citizens to our city,” said VonHandorf. “Saying the Pledge is a way to show respect to our great country and freedoms that are given to us.”
But Fairmont junior Olivia Fisher believes schools and states shouldn’t have the authority to enforce such rules. “I don’t think they should be able to. I don’t quite see the purpose of pledging allegiance to ‘a flag,’ but I do understand pledging to the country specifically. The whole idea seems very cult-ish to me,” she said.
Fairmont junior Devin Farley believes that “schools, as public institutions, should enforce that the Pledge be said,” but interpretations vary on whether the U.S. Constitution allows institutions to do this.
VonHandorf knows teachers can’t force students to stand for the Pledge. “It’s illegal to absolutely force a student to stand up for the Pledge every Monday morning,” he said. “But I’d like our teachers to remind students of the importance of citizenship and how the community helps in supporting our schools.”
VonHandorf said it’s up to advisory teachers to decide how or if to address the situation if a student refuses to participate. “Any time you have a difficult situation, it’s something teachers want to handle outside of the classroom and after advisory,” he said.
The principal added that he thinks the bond between students and their advisory teachers makes advisory teachers more effective when explaining the importance of the reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and why they as teachers do it. “I believe students have a little more respect for their advisory teachers and take more into account what they have to say,” VonHandorf said.
Fairmont sociology and psychology teacher Tina Kurtz considers the subject from a variety of angles: rights, respect and conformity.
“Students should not be forced to stand up and say the Pledge. It’s their constitutional right to stay seated and not participate,” said Kurtz.
Though Kurtz feels it is unconstitutional for schools to force this act, she does believe the Pledge is important. “I think it is one of the greatest forms of respect. Yes, it is conforming to society, but we do that every day — whether people want to admit it or not,” she said.
And while reciting the Pledge has been the “norm” for most students for as long as they can remember, students from other parts of the world must decide how they feel about the issue.
Junior Joanna Fadel, who is from Canada and of Lebanese descent, moved to America when she was little, and she feels the need to recite the Pledge every Monday morning.
“Even though I am not American, I still think it’s good to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the country that has accepted my family,” said Fadel. “It’s the smallest form of respect that I can contribute to America.”