No Pledge of Allegiance On Loudspeaker
Salt Lake Tribune
by Lisa Schencker
February 16, 2012
As in elementary schools across the state, children at Bluffdale Elementary begin each day by standing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Four days a week, they recite it classroom-by-classroom. But each Monday, the school recites the pledge in unison, led by students over the loudspeaker.
"If you’ve never been in a school full of kids reciting it at the same time, it’s cool, it’s spine-tingling," said Bluffdale principal Ken Westwood. "If you’ve ever been at a major public event where 1,000 people were reciting the pledge of allegiance at once, it’s amazing, the energy and just the love for country that emanates."
Under state law, all public elementary schools must have students recite the pledge at the beginning of each day, and secondary schools at least once a week. One state lawmaker, however, is now hoping to tweak that law to have the pledge be recited classroom-by-classroom rather than over a loudspeaker. Sen. Aaron Osmond’s SB223 would require a student in each elementary and secondary classroom to lead the pledge each morning.
"It’s about making the Pledge of Allegiance experience a more intimate experience within the classroom rather than something that’s broadcast over the entire intercom system that very few people follow or really pay attention to," said Osmond, R-South Jordan. "It’s just adding a level of respect to the Pledge of Allegiance itself and creating an environment where within the classroom, the student has a chance and the teacher has a chance to make it a more intimate experience every morning rather than something that’s just rote and done over an intercom."
Otherwise, Osmond said, he’s not looking to change other parts of the law. Individual students would still have the right not to participate if they so choose.
For some elementary schools that broadcast the pledge, however, it would be a change.
For example, in Granite School District, all schools, both elementary and secondary, already do school-wide pledges over the loudspeaker every Monday, said Ben Horsley, district spokesman.
"We feel confident the practice we utilize in the Granite District is providing our students with the appropriate amount of respect for our flag and our country, and we’re open to additional ways we can enhance that, and we’ll wait to see the outcome of bill," Horsley said.
Canyons District spokesman Jeff Haney said most Canyons schools do the pledge over the public address system as part of morning announcements.
"If it changed so that every school classroom would do it individually, of course we’d comply with that," Haney said.
For example, Canyons’ Copperview Elementary does the pledge each morning as part of its student-led video newscast, the Cougar School News. Students say the pledge in addition to a pledge to follow school rules and a pledge to graduate from high school and college, said principal Chanci Loran.
"We give everyone a chance to stand up, even our little kindergarten and first-grade students, and then we say it nice and slow," Loran said. "We do it together because we feel it builds school culture." But she said the school will support and follow any change to the law.
Westwood, the Bluffdale Elementary principal, said he can’t imagine not reciting the pledge as a school once a week even if Osmond’s proposed bill passed into law. He said in that case, the school might just do it twice on Mondays — once classroom-by-classroom and once as a school.
"I don’t think anyone will take issue with that," Westwood said, noting that Bluffdale is a very patriotic community.
"I think the kids look forward to it every week and I look forward to it as their principal," he said of the school-wide pledge.