After public backlash, the Wake County school system appears ready to drop potential changes to the wording in the district’s Pledge of Allegiance policy.
Last month, the school board’s policy committee backed a new policy that included wording saying the district’s citizenship curriculum “may encourage teachers to use the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance as an opportunity to teach students about the history concerning coercion and the importance of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights.”
But school officials say that, despite the wording, there was no intention to change the way the Pledge of Allegiance is taught. So now the policy committee is scheduled Tuesday to discuss keeping the Pledge policy as is and not including any language about coercion in a new citizenship policy.
“There was never any intent to change anything,” Tim Simmons, a Wake schools spokesman, said Monday. “In order to make that as clear as possible, the policy committee asked for staff to bring it back.”
Staff had previously recommended merging the district’s character education and Pledge of Allegiance policies into a new citizenship and character education policy, part of an ongoing effort to match the N.C. School Boards Association’s policy manual. No mention about the coercion wording was discussed at the March committee meeting.
“They looked at it simply as moving a policy from the school system’s numbering system to the School Boards’ policy numbering system.” Simmons said.
When news came out last month about the proposed new wording, state Sen. Chad Barefoot and the Wake County Republican Party accused the school system of pushing students and teachers “to undermine the pledge and patriotic values.” They asked people to contact the school system.
Parents and taxpayers should be pleased that the school system responded to their concerns, according to Terry Stoops, director of education research studies for the John Locke Foundation, a conservative Raleigh think tank. Stoops said the school system is making the right decision to leave the policy in its current form.
“The policy was poorly conceived and poorly worded from the start,” Stoops said of the changes. “Maintaining the policy as it was, which most parents appeared to accept, suggests that it wasn’t necessary to make a change.”
All North Carolina public schools are required under a 2006 state law to schedule time each day for students to recite the pledge, although students can’t be compelled to participate.