At South Portland High School in Maine, the students who read the morning announcements and lead the Pledge of Allegiance have created a controversy by letting their classmates know they don’t have to participate:
Student Body President Lily SanGiovanni and fellow senior Gaby Ferrell discovered under Maine law it is optional if a student wants to recite the pledge. SanGiovanni began adding “if you’d like to” before she led the school’s pledge.
“We are not doing this because we hate America or anything. We are really doing this because we understand there are people who choose to say the pledge and it means a lot to them and for others it doesn’t,” explained SanGiovanni.
What a wonderful idea! Kudos to the principal for allowing them to do this!
Oh wait. Never mind. He caved in under pressure:
“I asked Lily to stop saying the four words, not related to the community pressure, but more related to the process that we have here,” said Principal Ryan Caron.
The “process” that uses peer pressure to get kids to stand up and pledge allegiance to a god they don’t believe in because they don’t know that remaining seated is an option? The “process” that encourages students to pledge allegiance to our nation, even when our government’s policies hurt the rest of the world?
Caron told the students they would need to present their plan to the school board and have the phrase approved.
“The fact that I was asked to take away the ‘If you would like to,’ I felt like they were asking me to take away the law,” said SanGiovanni.
You shouldn’t need board approval to remind students of their rights. That said, the young women will be making their presentation to the school board soon.
Regardless of what happens, they’ve already created some change:
The principal said he is making sure teachers know that as well. Students are now calling for a policy change to make sure students coming into the high school know reciting the pledge is optional.
Ferrell added her own reasons for taking this position on Facebook:
The pledge was making some students feel pressured and shamed, which I feel is enough of a reason to make a change. We wanted simply to make students aware of their right to choose, and due to miscommunication and fiery opinions, it became a larger issue. Clearly, our community has opinions they want and need to share, a passion-fueled conversation is happening, we are not the ones making a mountain out of a mole hill.
As for WHY some students choose not to say the pledge, I can only speak for myself. I feel that pressuring students, starting as young as four or five, to promise unwavering loyalty and support for a country and government is dangerous. I believe the only way we will move forward as a nation is if citizens question authority, question what is being done, and make their own opinions and values known. Blind indoctrination discourages free thought and change and paves the way for power-hungry officials to do whatever they please and throw “anti-american” and “unpatriotic” accusations if anyone disagrees. I don’t feel comfortable promising my personal allegiance to any government or nation.
I’ve reached out to a couple of the teens for comment. In the meantime, I would encourage the Freedom From Religion Foundation to give the students — Lily SanGiovanni, Gaby Ferrell, and Morrigan Turner — scholarships for their leadership. This is the type of activism that deserves to be rewarded.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Jaynee for the link)