By JOHN FLOWERS
SALISBURY — Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) officials will soon offer some recommendations on reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in district schools.
The recommendations are being developed in response to a parent’s inquiry into how the Pledge is being observed at the Salisbury Community School. Sal Morana, whose daughter attends the Salisbury school, brought the matter to local school directors’ attention earlier this year out of concern that not all students were being given the opportunity to recite the Pledge each morning. He learned that the Pledge was being offered regularly in some classes, but not in others.
“Those kids should be offered the opportunity to say the Pledge every day,” Morana said. “Here we are in a rural, agricultural town with kids who may grow up to join the military … and it was surprising to me (there is no Pledge policy).”
Morana shared his views last month with the Salisbury school board and ACSU Superintendent Lee Sease. Since then, Sease acknowledged he has received more than 75 e-mails from people weighing in on the Pledge, most of them in favor of its observance in ACSU schools.
“There is support for the Pledge of Allegiance and recognizing patriotism,” said Sease, who has discovered the ACSU has no uniform policy or guidelines on the Pledge of Allegiance. He noted some ACSU schools have a student recite the Pledge over the intercom; others leave it up to individual teachers or confine it to special events.
“While this issue has come up in Salisbury, I don’t think approaching this from a single school standpoint makes much sense,” he said.
Sease also knows that some parents and children are not keen on seeing the Pledge recited at all in school. Some opponents of the practice have objected to having to utter the words “under God,” or have likened the Pledge to a blind oath of loyalty.
In an attempt to consider the rights of those who want to recite the Pledge as well as those who don’t, Sease and his colleagues are reviewing how schools throughout the county and state are handling the issue before handing down a proposed Pledge “practice” that could apply to all ACSU schools.
“I would hope we could address this without putting it in policy,” Sease said. “Policy carries the weight of law and can be inflexible. If we could address this at the administrative level, it can give us flexibility.”
Officials are scheduled to unveil their findings at the Salisbury school board meeting on Thursday, May 22, at 7 p.m.
“We are working to our best ability to do the right thing and appease all the people involved,” said Salisbury school board Chairman John Nuceder.
He stressed he and his colleagues want to proceed very carefully.
“We don’t want to set a precedent for other schools in Addison County and the state, for that matter,” Nuceder said.
A possible compromise, according to Nuceder, could involve a school-wide reciting the Pledge at Salisbury’s annual “Celebration of Learning Assembly.”
School officials are seeking, above all, to develop a practice that gives some consistency to how the Pledge is offered.
“We’re not going to say the Pledge every day in Salisbury, but we are not going to keep doing what we’re doing,” Nuceder said, referring to current inconsistencies in how the Pledge is observed.
Morana said he is satisfied with the manner in which Sease and Salisbury school directors have been dealing with his concerns. He is looking forward to seeing the proposed Pledge practice that emerges from the current debate.
“I just want to raise awareness,” Morana said, adding he and others can only learn from different viewpoints about the Pledge of Allegiance.
“This is a very fine example of Democracy in action.”
Speaking personally, Morana said he views the Pledge and its recitation as a way of “instilling a sense of ownership in our country. Whether you are in first grade or 12th grade, if you don’t feel you own a stake in your country, you are lost.”
He has also brought the issue to Middlebury American Legion Post 27. Legion Commander Richard Bullock said that while the Legion does not take a stand on political issues, the organization does support the Pledge. Post 27 has acquired an American flag, courtesy of the American Legion Department of Vermont, to give to the Salisbury school. The Legion is waiting for school officials to receive it.
“Needless to say, we all here feel (the Pledge) is something that should be said,” Bullock said. “All those who want to be able to recite it should be able to do so.”