Skip to comments.2 Lee schools violate pledge law (South Carolina)
Posted on 08/26/2009 10:09:35 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar
At least two Lee County public schools have violated state law by not having their students recite the Pledge of Allegiance, possibly because officials misinterpreted information they received before the school year began.
When District Superintendent Dr. Cleo Richardson became aware Tuesday that the schools were violating state law, he notified principals of all Lee schools that they must set aside time every day for students to recite the pledge.
Sherry Kerr, a Bishopville resident, said she was "very pleased" to learn that the school board did not direct principals to stop saying the pledge. Rumors had circulated this week on the social networking site Facebook that the board had prohibited the recitation of the pledge in district schools.
"I think it's very important for our young people to learn to respect our country," Kerr said.
Lei Knight, principal of Bishopville Primary and Dennis Intermediate, said the schools did not include the pledge when they began having morning announcements on Monday. The pledge was part of last year's morning program at the schools.
"There's no policy against saying the Pledge of Allegiance," Knight said Monday. "We did inform the teachers of the sensitive nature of the pledge and especially the phrase 'under God.' ... We didn't even have morning announcements the first week of school. Monday was the first day we had announcements."
Knight could not be reached for comment after Richardson issued his directive concerning the pledge.
State law requires that each school set aside time for the pledge, said state Department of Education spokesman Jim Foster.
Since the 1991-92 school year, all South Carolina public schools have been required to designate a time for the pledge to be recited. Anyone who doesn't want to say the pledge cannot be forced to participate and cannot be penalized, Foster said.
Richardson said information provided by attorneys during pre-service training is likely the basis for the rumors.
"The attorneys told us that students could not be required to say the pledge," he said. "This is nothing new. It's been that way a long time. It was just a reminder. The topic was not the Pledge of Allegiance, but it was about religion and how schools must respect the rights of students. It was a misinterpretation by some of our administrators if they haven't been including the Pledge of Allegiance in the daily program."
Richardson said he agrees that students should have an opportunity to participate in the pledge.
"You just can't require a student to participate if they choose not to," he said. "There's no board policy that keeps schools from saying the Pledge of Allegiance."
Lee County Librarian Dawn Ellen said it is important for children to say the pledge.
"I think it is an important part of our culture, and it serves to remind us of our freedoms," said Ellen, "as well as everything else we enjoy in this great country in which we live."
Wally DesChamps, formerly of Bishopville, said educators should understand the importance of the pledge.
"If they don't want to say the pledge, then the schools are failing miserably at teaching history effectively," DesChamps said. "Anyone who would object to the pledge needs to be shipped somewhere where they can get a better understanding of how precious all we take for granted really is."
Lower Lee Elementary Principal David Montgomery said the pledge will continue to be part of his school's daily opening program.
"We just have to make sure we protect the rights of all our students," Montgomery said. "If anyone objects to saying it, then we will address that on an individual basis. We cannot require our students to say the pledge."
Shelly Galloway, public information specialist for Sumter School District 17, said the district informs parents of the state requirement in a handbook.
"Students don't have to say the pledge as long as they are not disruptive," Galloway said.
According to the Sumter 17 handbook, a student can elect to "leave the classroom, remain in his or her seat, or express non-participation in any form as long as that form does not materially infringe upon the rights of others or disrupt school activities."
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