with poll: Saline Area Schools to draft Pledge of Allegiance policy
Because it appears the Michigan House of Representatives is not going to pass a bill mandating the Pledge of Allegiance this calendar year, the Saline Board of Education has decided to draft its own policy for consideration.
Giving students in Saline the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance has been the primary goal of Trustee David Holden's. When he first brought the request before the board in January, he said it was a campaign promise he made to voters prior to being elected in November.
Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, told board members then that a bill requiring students across the state to say the Pledge of Allegiance daily passed in the Senate in November. He said members of the House were waiting for the bill to come out of committee so they could vote.
"In my recent conversations with legislators, I've been told the current legislation — what's been proposed — most likely is not going to be enacted this year. So I would like for us to take a look at that policy again," Holden said at Tuesday's board meeting.
Most of the board was in favor of its Policy Committee at least attempting to draft a policy addressing the pledge. However, there was some confusion about what the outcome would be.
"We live in a great county and it gives all of us the opportunity to do whatever we want," said Trustee Craig Hoeft. "I don't think the 12 seconds or whatever it takes (to say the pledge) is too much to ask (of teachers and students). "I'm in favor of at least getting at the policy and seeing where this will go."
Several board members asked Holden what he envisions the policy would say. He said he does not see a need to severely alter the district's current policy pertaining to ceremonial processes and observances. He simply would like the district to change the policy language to say "shall" instead of its current language of "may," which makes a daily show of patriotism more voluntary, Holden said.
He added conceptually, he also would want to add language that gives the building principals the latitude to determine how reciting the pledge best fits into the building's typical school day. So the policy would not necessarily mandate when — whether at the start of the day, lunchtime or the end of the day, etc. — the school was required to carve out time, Holden said.
President Lisa Slawson wondered about the remainder of the current policy, which also says students and teachers can participate in other patriotic displays.
The exact language of the existing "ceremonies and observances" policy is:
Classrooms may open the school day with appropriate exercises. Such may include the pledge to the flag, patriotic songs, and reading of excerpts of material, which will implement the development of moral values, patriotism, and high standards of conduct. A student who expresses a religious objection to repeating the pledge to the flag shall not be required to participate. However, such students shall not cause a disturbance or interfere with the participation of others.
Some board members advocated for leaving the "may include" language intact.
But Slawson said this is confusing.
"People think changing one or two words is minimizing a myriad of consequences, but really it is opening a floodgate we would have to deal with," she said. "It generates just a ton of questions: Will the principal read it over the intercom? Do I do it in my classroom? What if I forget, am I in trouble? ... According to the current policy, it seems like if I'm a teacher and I'm less patriotic I could play 'Born in the U.S.A' by Bruce Springsteen."
Trustees agreed there are a number of details to be worked out at the Policy Committee level before a draft could be brought back to the full board.
Holden hoped the Policy Committee could address the Pledge of Allegiance at tonight's meeting and present a draft as an action item at the regular Board of Education meeting in two weeks. Slawson said that timeline is not doable and goes against other board policies that require attorney involvement, as well as staff and community input prior to adopting new policies.